The Cost of Equality

There’s a question burning in my heart that I need to ask you…that I need to ask myself.  My little CT town is reeling, and rightly so, from a new budget proposal by our own Governor Malloy.  At first I was caught off guard by the budget’s drastic decrease in funds to our town’s public school- an alleged $1.63 million decrease, to be exact.  (Not to mention another $1.5 million that our town would have to come up with for teacher pensions.)  It didn’t sit well with me…I mean, it certainly seemed like something to be enraged about.

But I read in my local paper a mere one-sentence blip, as though an irrelevant factual concession, which informed me that there was a piece to the story I was missing; part of the reason for the proposed reduction for our budget is to increase the spending for underfunded schools where the greatest poverty exists.

And I’ll be honest, that stung me.  Because I desperately want to live in an America where there’s not an educational disparity between two neighboring towns because of income level.  I desperately want to live in an America where I would gladly enroll my kids in any school, in any town.

But I don’t.  I live in an America where my kids have chromebooks and amazing teachers and resources, but other students less than a half hour drive from me are lacking.  (Do I even care to know the conditions of “their” education?)  I live in an America where poverty in certain places is systemic and suffocating and dictates the kind of education a child can hope to receive.

And there’s the phrase going around “There’s no such thing as other people’s children.”  We’re all in this together, right?  But what does it mean to embrace that idea as more than mere theory?

So I simply have to ask…as we lament possible budget cuts to our own kids, where is our lament for our neighbor’s kids who would only dream of the resources we possess?  Where is our joy for “our kids” in other towns who could perhaps enjoy new success?  Is equality something we can seek without sacrifice?  How far are we willing to go to see “liberty and justice for all”?

Because I guarantee you this:  Equality will not come without cost.  And the cost of equality, though we don’t want to see it, will be greatest for those who have “more than”.  Though individuals who’ve been dealt “less” have certainly overcome their poverty, equality will never come if we sit around hoping the masses of under-resourced will miraculously leap over the hurdles of cyclical poverty and broken systems, to arrive level with the advantages many of us have enjoyed without realizing.

I’ve had my share of “more than”- of privilege, wealth, freedom…the chance to dream.  And I’m learning lately that I’m hugely complicit in this larger issue of inequality because, quite frankly, I’d rather not be uncomfortable.  I’d rather not give up what I have.

But, God help me, I need to change.  I need to be willing to bleed, to encounter rough places, to accept less in order to see others rise.  In order to see our nation, our states, our neighborhoods…made one.

I realize the issue is much larger than dollars- I understand that the budget cut could mean job loss, lesser education, and a giant step backwards for PTO and others who have worked tirelessly to raise funds for our schools.  I thank those of you who have given so much of your lives to improve and support our schools and our children.  I don’t want to minimize the potential hardship to our town.  And I’m sure this budget proposal is hardly the end-all answer to leveling the educational playing field and squashing rampant poverty.  Maybe it’s not a great answer period.

But it certainly makes for a good mirror to turn at ourselves.

I’m trying to educate myself on the social justice issues that plague our world, but I admit my own limitations of knowledge and awareness.  In fact, I’m so aware of my faults that I feel the hypocrite even as I pose these questions.  But as much for myself as for you…and our nation…I have to start the dialogue.  The answers aren’t simple, but I welcome your thoughts as I try to process my own growing uneasiness of heart over the disparity between what I say I believe and the way that I live.

Suggested Reading:

Good School, Rich School; Bad School, Poor School The inequality at the heart of America’s education system

My Address to Trump

Dear President Trump,

I won’t attack all the things…there’s no point in that.  I agree with you wholeheartedly when you say we need to seek solidarity.  Little good can come when we’re divided, humanly angry, and stirring up more anger with harsh words.

But on that note- solidarity- there’s one thing I want to address from your address.  You say, “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” [Emphasis Mine]

You quote Psalm 133:1…but there’s a quote you may have missed on solidarity:

Philippians 2:2-4 says, “make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Mr. President, solidarity comes not through putting our own needs first; rather it comes through humility, valuing others before ourselves.  And perhaps you’ll argue that you’re not suggesting that we put our own needs first, just the needs of our NATION first.

But I would have to respectfully disagree…Luke 10:27 says “Love your neighbor as yourself” and once you start putting limits on whom exactly is our neighbor…whew, that’s very slippery slope.

We live in a globally connected world; more than ever my neighbor is not just the person living next door to me; it is both the person here in the U.S. who is struggling in poverty AND the foreigner- the refugee- the AIDS plagued- the trafficked- the oppressed.  And once you start shrinking the circle of “who is my neighbor”, you create a precarious house of cards whose foundation appears altruistic, but in reality is based on the god of ME.

Bottom line- love and solidarity is not birthed by deciding whom to exclude- by championing nationalism at the expense of global humanity.  That line of thinking moves quickly from “support my nation” to “support my race” or “support middle class” to “support my town” to “support my family” to “support me, me, me.”

And honestly, what seems best for me is rarely best for the whole.  And what seems best for me might just be the worst thing for me in the long run.

So please know that we are watching, and we are waiting.  And while I’m not entirely sure what my role here is yet, trust me when I say that I’m praying to be ready to stand on the side of justice, whether it’s here on US soil or not.  That’s where unity waits.

Sincerely,

Carrye Burr

 

Matthew 10:25-37

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

(New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)

 

10 Useless Fantasy Football Tips

This year I made my Fantasy Football debut in our church league.  My husband is a football aficionado junky fanatic (yes I’ll leave that one) who knows more players and stats than I know things about coffee.  So I thought this year, instead of being annoyed at him checking FF stats, I’d join up myself and maybe bond over football.  Now that I’m officially knocked out of the champion game, I just thought I’d share my useless rookie advice with all of you.

  1. Before you begin your draft, read lots of articles geared for Rookie Fantasy players, including expert tips on who to draft first.  Do you need to know what the terms “PPR”, “waivers”, and “Tom Brady” mean?  No.  But you should at least be able to use them in complete sentences.  (Note: All your research will dangerously inflate your confidence, but will only help you in approximately 1.3 of your draft rounds.)
  2. Ask your husband alllllllll the questions.  You’ll need to be redundant because he will tell you things that you should have listened to the first time.  (Don’t read that last part too closely.)
  3. When you go to a live draft party, make sure you bring a reliable mobile device.  Apparently, when it’s “your turn” to choose a player, the draft doesn’t pause just because you got kicked offline.  However, you may auto-draft a half-way decent defense this way….which will probably save you from some humiliating draft pick (like a third kicker or something).
  4.   Always play Aaron Rodgers.  Always play Aaron Rodgers except when he’s on a BYE.  Still, your backup QB will score more points than him at least once and you’ll want to drive to Green Bay to shame him.  I don’t recommend this. 
  5. Learn how to spell Aaron Rodgers.  (Don’t be fooled…there’s a “d” in there.)  Learn how to pronounce Bilal Powell.  Familiarize yourself with nicknames of players like J.J. Watt.  This way you just seem mildly incompetent.
  6. Be ridiculously on top of this fantasy football thing for the first few weeks.  Then, when you get discouraged because of an inevitable loss, stop trying for a couple weeks.  Hope that your husband is kind enough to be checking on your team periodically to switch our your BYE players during your emotional slump.
  7. Marvel that your team is doing marginally better than you hoped, and renew your enthusiasm.  YAY FANTASY FOOTBALL!!  BEST HOBBY EVER!!! (stuff like that.)
  8. Start using fantasy football language in your everyday conversations: “Can’t believe my RB scored over 25 points this week!”  “My backup QB got a passing yard bonus.”   “Hey look! A football!”  Things like that.
  9. When/If you make the playoffs, act completely natural.  Blend right in.  Every morning of the playoff weeks, look at yourself in the mirror and say: “Well hello there, Fantasy Football Genius!” Pretending to put “eye black” on and making intimidating faces is optional.  (Looking up the phrase “eye black” before blogging about it is not optional.)
  10. You’ll probably tank before the championship game, so keep a running list of excuses in your back pocket as to why this happened, so as to divert from the obvious issue of your massive ineptitude.  (Ideas: Blame the loss on your opponent’s unusually high defensive points, on your inexplicably high percentage of player injuries, and if nothing else, remind everyone of the injustice of your auto-draft from day 1.

If you follow these simple rules, you’ll end up 7-6-0 losing in the last round before the championship game with a stupid score that looks like this.  (I’m blaming Aaron. And also J.J. Watt for the excuse of needing “surgery”.)

 

If You’re Broken Too…

I won’t keep you…it’s late but for most of us our thoughts have a short shelf life, so I’m getting it out now while its fresh.

I’m not always OK.  Here on my blog I share some of my vulnerable self.  But even here, I manage my vulnerable.  I want you to know I’m real, that I’m screwed up, but at the same time I don’t want you to think any less of me.  Right?  Some amount of mess is relate-able…endearing even.  But aren’t there things that all of us have done that would make someone else’s mouth drop just a little bit?  Yeah.  I don’t like handing those details out like candy.

Maybe I manage for my own sake too.  I grew up trying so hard to never make a mistake, and that trying followed me right into adulthood.  I tell myself “nobody’s perfect” and that I so fall short of my idea of glory, let alone God’s.  But then those moments of complete and utter brokenness in my life take me by surprise almost.  How could I screw up?

I was trying so hard.  I was trying so hard not to disappoint him, her, them.  I was trying so hard to be a good mom.  I was trying so hard not to be late, not to spend too much, not to say the wrong thing.  I intended so well, but didn’t follow through.  But I was trying so hard, and this guilt just follows me around no matter what…sometimes because I think I messed up…but worse are the times I know for a fact I face planted.  Dropped the ball.  Intentionally cut someone down.  Yelled so loud.  Absolutely failed.

Why am I just. so. human?

Yes, I’m still being vague.  Because the truth is, a blog can inspire but we need blood and flesh relationships for vulnerability, not a screen.  Odds are, if you’ve allowed me to see you unravel, I know you’re a safe place to unravel myself.  And if you’ve loved me, frayed ends and all…I know there’s hope in the mess somewhere. 20160813_112045-copy

And love is what I…we…so desperately need.20160817_123706

At the end of the day, the falling and the mess and the guilt and the pain…it’s covered.  Love has covered a multitude of sin, and the God who loves me chose me at the worst of my broken.  When it looked like I might never become anything more than shattered glass on the floor.  And maybe He doesn’t actually expect me to become perfect, but to become surrendered to that love.  Maybe those unraveling moments are where I’m meant to experience the depths of God’s love..because I’m aware of my deepest failing. need. The vast chasm that His love spans to reach me.

Perhaps at once the most beautiful and terrifying thing is letting go of my belief that I CAN be good enough and letting myself be loved anyway.

And letting others be loved that way too.

Don’t look around at the sea of people in your church or your school or your workplace or your homeschool co-op or your playdate group and think that you’re the unraveliest.  You’re not alone, and unless we tell each other from time to time how broken we are, we’ll walk a guilty isolated road.  Be vulnerable with someone…embrace being human…and may you know somehow that you are simply loved anyway.

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How (Not) to Bring Someone a Meal

Awhile back I posted about about all the ways I went wrong trying to become an author, or how not to wash your clothes. I feel you all valued my blundering so much, that maybe I should periodically grace you with more sarcastic “how-to”s.  Ergo, my latest blunder…

HOW (Not) TO BRING SOMEONE A MEAL:

Step 1: Plan a day to bring someone a meal.

Step 2: However much you’re tempted, do not grocery shop for this meal until the day you must deliver it.  This lends an element of suspense to the event.  Ooh, see?  I have chills now.

Step 3: Around 10:30am the day of, peruse pinterest for a cute-looking, festive meal you’ve never made before in your life.  (Making a tried and true crowd pleaser is something only practical people wimps do.)

Step 4: Invite a friend to join you for frozen yogurt with the kids at 1:30 AFTER you grocery shop.  (See step 5 for the full problematic ramifications of this step.)

Step 5: Load kids in the car later than you planned to, and decide last minute that because you need diapers and wipes you should grab your groceries at Walmart instead of your local Stop & Shop.  This will save you money, but is a much farther drive.  (To keep you up to speed- the combination of steps 4 and 5 means you now have a bewilderingly short amount of time to finish your shopping in before meeting your friend for froyo.)

Step 6: Realize ruefully on the way to the store that you never fed your children lunch.  Please handle this step carefully: Avoid extreme language, and fight the natural instinct to bang your head on the steering wheel as you drive.

Step 7: Once in the Walmart parking lot, grab a cart that has one of those anarchistic wheels…You know, the cart where three of the wheels are behaving and the fourth has gone completely rogue and is making a “dgzz-dgzz-dgzz-dgzz” sound while flailing about.  Yes.  You know the one.  Ask yourself if you’re the only one who always picks these?

Step 8: Ditch cart for a new one, breathe in…breathe out.

Step 9: Re-discover the Subway restaurant INSIDE Walmart.  Pull your cart over and buy your children a healthy lunch while patting yourself on the back for redeeming your previous forgetfulness. Enjoy a proud moment.

Step 10: Recall that pride comes before a fall when the lady behind you in line discretely alerts you to the fact that your skirt is tucked up in the back.  Even though you will instinctively blush because your brain doesn’t know how to play it cool, try to act completely natural- joke casually with the lady saying, “At least I’m wearing leggings underneath!”  Ha-ha…Ahem.  Move as quickly as possible to the next step.

Step 11: Make a mental note to plan your trips better, as you realize that this isn’t a superWalmart and doesn’t have all the veggie items you need.  Return to the car and text your friend that you’ll be late for Froyo.

Step 12: Drive back to town quickly and buy your kids that Frozen Yogurt you promised.  Convince your son that they do not prefer children to go up for free refills.  Once the kids are full of sugar, move onto step 13.

Step 13: Go to a second grocery store to get the rest of your supplies.

Step 14: Multi-tasking Step:  Simultaneously put your son for a nap, bring the groceries in, and start the food prep, while mildly contemplating cleaning the dishes and checking facebook.  (For bonus fun, do this while singing Elton John’s “Rocket Man” until you get to the part in the chorus where you have to make up words because you don’t actually know how the song goes. Something about a fuse?)

Step 15: Realize you’ve forgotten chicken broth- replace the two cups of chicken broth with water and a pinch of salt and nervously move on.

Step 16: Finally pull your finished product out of the oven and gaze at its sort-of-OK-ness.  Not quite the pinterest picture, but your friend won’t know that.

Step 17: This is fairly critical so you’ll want to cut some corners to ensure failure.  Instead of putting the hot food and its flimsy disposable tray into a bag for protection, try to run it to the car with just your clumsy hands.  Inexplicably lose grip on the tray at the 1 yard line…as you try to put it in the car.  Now your food should look roughly like this, give or take a couple bites of sweet potato: food-spill(I’ll spare you the pinterest vs. real life comparison pictures at this stage.)

Step 17: Salvage what you can and bring a few backup food items on the off chance that your friend takes the careless looking food as a metaphor for your friendship, and deliver the food anyway!  (Confession of the spill is optional.  But I opted for honesty, in case you’re wondering.)

Step 18:  Insert a “clean van” step between step 16 and 17…and CONGRATULATIONS!  You’ve successfully  adequately passably made and delivered a meal to someone!

 

 

 

This is War America

It’s so easy for me to get sucked into my teeny corner of America.  I live in a small town with a husband and three kids- I’m in an itty bitty homeschool group and a church of just a couple hundred people.  That’s my community.  My days consist of teaching my kids- writing- going to the grocery store like every other day (seriously now, if you’ve figured out how to remember ALL the things from the store at once, I don’t even want to know!)- and sneaking out the house for a really good cup of coffee with friends.

I can keep my head down most days and forget that there’s a real live world outside of my own, with tragedy and triumph separated yet unavoidably related to mine.

But the upcoming election is jolting me awake.  I’m appalled by the negative comments made by Trump towards racial minorities, women and those who seem “weak”.  (Though I’m more afraid of the mindset that goes along with those comments than the words themselves.)  And Lord knows I’m skeptical of Clinton’s track record.  I’ll spare you all the stats.

People have called this election a vote for the “lesser evil”.

And I’m not going to sit here and tell you how to vote, but I will tell you this: the voting is the easy part.

Fear and anger have a funny way of revealing our hearts.  They reveal my selfishness like nothing else, because the things I’m afraid of or angry about are usually for myself- for MY family.  As a result, when I take a stand to CHANGE something I’m afraid of, it usually has to do with me.  When my insurance told me they didn’t cover my insulin pump, I was angry and jumped right up to advocate for…me.  When the IRS accidentally recorded my wages as double and said I owed them money, I freaked out and advocated for…me.  When my kid was waiting patiently in line at a museum and another kid started to cut ahead, I (passive aggressively) advocated for…MY kid.

Here in this election, I’m sure you’re feeling fear or anger on one side or another.  I am.  I mean, am I going to be treated radically differently as a woman?  Am I going to be lied to?  Is my family even going to be safe anymore in this country?   I. Me.  There it is again.

And I have to be honest, my reaction to worry about how I may be treated differently makes me stop and realize that other. people. are. already. being. treated. differently.  People in other countries are dying, often with barely a headline in “my world”.  Children are trafficked- used and abused- every minute.  (You CAN help!) Many are still denied the right to vote, disproportionate numbers of racial minorities in my country are caught in the oppression of a cycle of poverty…and why is that?

Well friends.  It has a lot to do with I. Me. It’s because I’m so busy standing up for the things that affect me, that I’m not willing to take a stand to defend the rights of someone else.  I’m not willing to take up the cause of the less fortunate until I AM the less fortunate.  Until I realize, for instance, that female equality isn’t going to happen without the help of…men.  Now I’m the vulnerable party and hope someone will reach down and help me…but I’m not reaching down very often to see who needs my hand.

And that is simply not OK.  Something has to give, and I confess I need a God bigger than my selfishness to work that love in me.

Here is what I’ll say.  Yes, Vote.  Because standing up for the most valuable rights of each person begins with standing up for the people you believe can best defend those rights for EVERYONE.

But then, boy, get ready.  Because when the dust settles in this election, like it or not, there’s going to be a winner.  And guess what?  No matter who wins, there will still be brokenness.  No matter which party prevails, there will be a mess of broken humanity to pick up in the aftermath…and that is where I come in.  You come in.

Are we willing to come together in the end, and roll up our sleeves, and do more than just talk politics?  Am I willing to set aside the things that make me afraid to notice how someone else is living in fear?  Am I willing to sacrifice a bit of my privilege on the altar of equality?  That is always what must happen for change to occur:  Are you a guy?  Are you willing to stand up for women’s rights when it doesn’t affect you at all?  Do you live with white privilege?  What are you willing to give up so someone else can breathe as freely as you do?

I’ve heard multiple times this week the idea of “loving our neighbor as ourselves”…can we at least be willing to start there?

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I ask these questions as much or more of myself- I’m not where I should be, and you can hold me accountable.

Isaiah 1:16-18New International Version (NIV)

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

Defend.  Take up.

Let’s just call this what it is…this is war.  And I don’t mean a war between Republican and Democrat, I mean a war for justice, for equality, for LOVE.  This world is hurting and it will take more than government to put a dent in it.  You can shut your eyes to it like I do so often, but it isn’t going away.  If we’re going to see love change anything we’re going to have to allow ourselves to be afraid FOR someone else- to be angry FOR someone else- and then to harness that emotion into actually standing up for those who can’t stand up themselves.

For Christians, that’s not just a nice thought.  It’s a command.  And it’s also the Gospel in a nutshell- God left His throne, His rights, His comfort- to give us what we could never reach by ourselves…perfection. Holiness. He made us perfect by dying for us in love- and that is what He asks us to do….die to ourselves that we may live for Him and love others.  We are completely unable to do that ourselves, but when we watch Jesus, we can become more like love too.  Are you willing to be a work in progress with me?

Imitating Christ’s Humility (NIV)
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

 

3 Ways to Re-wash Your Clothes

I know that most of you have your hands full- whether you work, parent, volunteer, or possibly play Quidditch professionally on the side.  So the majority of you won’t need to read the following time-consuming tips- but for those who need to fill more time, or who are possibly scatter-brained like me- feel free to read on.

#1: FORGET THAT YOU WASHED YOUR CLOTHES

This tactic is fairly simple, and I recommend starting here if you’ve never re-washed your clothes before.  It takes very little effort- in fact, the only thing you have to remember is to not remember.  Simply put your dirty clothes in the wash, add detergent, and let the washing machine do its thing.  Then, instead of removing the washed clothes promptly, let them stand at least overnight or up to several days, if you’d prefer.  When you go to wash a new batch of dirty clothes later, open the washing machine, breathe in the unpleasant sourness of your neglected garments, and breathe out a sigh as you set your machine to re-wash the clothes.  Congratulations!

#2: ADD A DIAPER OR PULLUP WITH CLOTHES

This method of re-washing is equally simple, but requires a little more prep work.  You may want to employ the help of a child who: (A) Is potty training  and (B) has been taught to put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket.  With any luck, said child will eventually go to put his PJ bottoms in the dirty clothes and absent mindedly drop a pull up in as well.  Now the stage is set for your part- grab the basket of clothes, but don’t look closely or sort through anything.  Start your laundry as usual, and return when clothes are finished.  If you’ve followed the above steps correctly, all of your clothes should look something like this:

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Grab one goobery item after another, briefly wondering if your washing machine is broken before stumbling upon the offending polyacrylate absorbents.  An eye roll or stifled profanity is an optional step.  Now, you may re-wash your clothes!

#3: MISTAKE CLEAN CLOTHES FOR DIRTY ONES

Our final how-to is slightly more complicated and I don’t recommend it for beginners.  To successfully accomplish this re-wash, you must be more than just forgetful- you must be excessively committed to  multi-tasking.  Purely hypothetically, one could be babysitting an extra child or three AND talking to one’s mother on the phone when suddenly one’s free hand feels unproductive and longs to be doing one more thing. Just one more.  One should then walk into the spare room where clothes are inconveniently waiting in three separate states of done-ness: clean, dirty, and folded.  Here’s the critical moment that the whole plan hinges upon: skip directly PAST the dirty clothes pile, confidently reaching for the clean basket one’s husband thoughtfully removed from the dryer.  Take said clean clothes and dump them in the wash with the satisfaction of a child who discovered how to get the chocolate from the top shelf: briefly swell with domestic pride as you continue chatting with your mother.  You’ve successfully re-washed your clothes! (Note: You won’t feel fully satisfied with this last method if you don’t realize you’ve done it.  Therefore, I highly recommend, while still multi-tasking, that you pass through your laundry room shortly after your re-wash and glance casually at your ACTUALLY dirty clothes basket and allow yourself to fully ponder your mistake.  Optional: Confess your laundry lament to your mother if she’s still on the phone.)

 

That’s it!  Three easy ways to re-wash.  Whether you needed those tips or not (all of which I’ve actually done) and joking aside, I hope to see some of you domestic-weary friends tomorrow (September 12th) for our first COFFEE CRAWL 9:30-11:30am at Sweet Harmony Cafe in Middletown.  Please message me for more information!

(The coffee crawl, unless otherwise noted, will be on the 2nd Monday of each month! Subscribe to the blog or like my facebook page to stay updated on future outings and events!)

From Diapers to Word Count (SpeakUP Blog Hop!)

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend SpeakUp Conference in Grand Rapids, MI, where I joined dozens of other speakers and writers from a rainbow of backgrounds and states (27, actually, but who’s counting?).

For someone like me who never graduated from college- who has spent the last 7 (wonderful) years as a stay-at-home parent, this was a whole new ball game.  Suddenly I was surrounded by professionals who were more interested in my word count than my “diapers-changed” count.  My stand-by ice breakers of blowing raspberries on bellies and talking in my goofy Scottish pirate accent would not have gone over well with this crowd.  Not that I tried.

And everyone was so put together- were they, in fact, TOO put together and polished for me to learn anything from?  I sometimes feel I play the part of the rebel- I overthink things- I’m scattered and can’t even manage to take a shower everyday- was THIS really a group I was going to fit into?  Could I see this as more than a glorified competition for the most likes, thumbs ups, and book supporters?

At the risk of failing miserably to properly build the suspense here…the answer is YES.

From the minute I started interacting with others, I found genuine hearts and vulnerable stories underneath the business clothes, behind the impressive lists of accomplishments.  From the outset the conference leaders painted a picture of humility and submission to God rather than competition and glory-snatching.

I walked in skeptical and desperately hoping to have a unique platform to jump from- I walked out with an incredible sense that we’re all here “for such a time as this*”- that when our ideas flow from our Creator, it doesn’t matter if they’re unique or overlapping.  We each have a voice and a circle of influence for a reason- for precisely now…whether someone slaps an endorsement sticker on us or not.  That’s just gravy.

And yes, I got plenty of practical advice for branching out into more speaking and writing.  Probably the biggest take-away for me was the idea of really bringing my message and heart of ministry into clearer focus.  Mentors, agents and speakers encouraged me to KNOW succinctly what message I’m meant to speak out in this season, and define clearly the needs of the people I’m serving in any given situation.

This means finding my voice- finding the what and the who of my “for such a time as this”.  So I can speak up clearly and effectively.  Whether it’s at a playdate swapping temper-tantrum stories, or speaking about my faith in front of a crowd.  It all matters- it’s all part of my purpose.

So what about YOU?  What do you feel is your “for such a time as this”, and what steps are you taking to embrace that role in this season of your life? Comment below to share you story and join the conversation!

*(Esther 4:14- NIV)

I’m a Mess

Raising little kids is challenging at times, but there’s also lots of hilarity.  It’s changed me a lot.  I’m totally not the person I was when I started having kids.  For better or worse!

One of my daily challenges with children is cleaning.  I’ve actually started collecting pictures of my kids making messes on the floor.  Therefore, I have two stories with morals to share with you from my illustrious experience cleaning with kids:

First: I mopped my floor last week for the first time in… (wait, you didn’t think I was actually going to ADMIT the last time, did you?)  I threw my kids into utter bewilderment by putting the chairs upside down on the table, like my Mama used to do, so I could thoroughly get under the table.  Right after the floor was clean my kids tromped through with muddy feet from playing in the sprinkler, and I was so irritated.  But if they’d sludged through the day before, I would have only rolled my eyes at the mess.

Moral #1:  “Clean” is best treated as an abstract theory with children in the house. In other words, clean less.  It can only lead to irritation.

Second: It’s important over the years of parenting to begin to settle into a few general rules of thumb when food spills on the floor.  Can your children eat food off the floor once it’s been dropped?  If so, at which level of “public” do you draw the line for floor eating? (McDonalds playplace, for instance, or a gas station bathroom?) My kids recently dropped half a bag of veggie straws on the floor- my son then started eating out of the bag again.  I laughed at myself as I heard the words, “Don’t eat what’s in the bag, eat what’s on the floor first!” come out of my mouth.  Um, yes. However, another day my 2 year old spilled half a bag of chocolate chips on the floor and I swept those right up.

Moral #2: Always judge whether your kids should eat off the floor by how much work you will have to do one way or the other.  (Ex.  If letting your kids eat of a mostly clean floor keeps you from having to clean up the snack, let them do it.  But, if letting your kids eat off the floor will cause them to end up ingesting large amounts of sugar (requiring you to keep up with their energy for the next hour) or if said eating could give them a stomach bug (requiring infinitely more cleanup in the long run), do not let them floor-eat.

I hope this has been helpful.  Please enjoy a handful of my mess pictures through the years:

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Moral #3: Take pictures of the messes.  It helps you see the humor in it all, and sometimes the best pictures are the messiest ones.

Sharing the Love/Giveaway #1!

*IF YOU TRIED TO USE THE CONTACT FORM ON THIS POST, AND NEVER HEARD FROM ME, PLEASE VISIT MY FACEBOOK PAGE https://www.facebook.com/lesstobemore/ AND MESSAGE ME THERE.  I APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE!*

I just want to say how blown away I’ve been by everyone’s response during my whole publishing process.  Some of you have encouraged me faithfully, some volunteered time to fine-comb edit for me, some have gently mentored, and still others have helped me spread the news about the book.  (One of you is my mother who helped design my giveaway picture for today!)

It isn’t a strong enough phrase, but Thank. You.

So somewhere in my process of writing down a book with endless questions, it dawned on me… “This would make a GREAT small group study guide!”  So I went back through my chapters and created questions for each section.  I added the study guide to the end of the book and felt like it was a nice touch.  Super nice in theory.

But then I got to see it come to life.

Today I want to highlight a special group of friends who volunteered to be my guinea pig “Gray Faith Study Group”.  (I won’t embarrass them by calling them out by name!) For eight weeks this past spring, these friends met weekly and worked through “Gray Faith” together.  They graciously gave me tips and advice to make the book better.

But more than that, they brought themselves.  I put out some pretty honest and vulnerable questions, and they were willing to answer them equally honestly and vulnerably.  I found myself in awe of what it looks like when people from different backgrounds come together and drop any pretense- when we stop asking the “yes” or “no” Bible questions and start digging into the areas where we aren’t sure we have answers yet.

They taught me so much, and they gave me a passion to see other groups form to work through the gray areas of our lives and faith as well!  Acknowledging where we don’t have the answers gives others permission to voice their own questions- and honesty before our friends and more importantly, our God, is the first step to experiencing a faith that isn’t plastic.

Photo Cred- Joy MartinSO HERE’S MY FIRST GIVEAWAY:

If you might be interested in leading a “Gray Faith” discussion group, I’d love to send you a free book!

Maybe you already meet with a group of friends as a Bible study or church group and would like to use this book for a study in the fall!

Or perhaps you could picture yourself starting a casual discussion with a handful of friends over coffee once a week!

This is not some contract-binding agreement- if you read the book and don’t think it’s a fit for your group, or if your situation changes, that’s fine!  But I’d love to offer this to the first ten people who fill out this contact form with your name, email address, and a brief summary of your current study group or your discussion group idea!*

If you end up leading a group, I plan to put out some video material later in the summer to go along with the study, and am always happy to answer any questions you may have about how to encourage helpful discussion!

This will be an open-ended giveaway- I’ll make an update to the post once all books have been claimed.  Thanks for stopping in, and I hope you have a wonderful week!

*(I’ll be shipping the books myself, so if you submit one of the first 10 responses, I’ll follow up to get your shipping address.  Books will ship out based on availability ASAP.  Please allow at least 2 weeks from submitting your form to receiving your book shipment.  If you need your book for a specific start date, please make a note in your feedback form!)