Call it Creativity?

It was Tuesday morning, circa 8:50am: homeschool co-op day was upon us, where I’ve been entrusted with an hour of activities and playtime for the boisterous toddler set.  Except I had no activity planned.

My fully-adult baby brother and sister came to visit the night before which meant I’d stayed up late talking about all the things.  Sibling time is soul food, and therefore worth shirking other obligations for occasionally.  Right?  So there was simply no time to squeeze out to prepare for class. Not a drop.  (This is where you all smile and nod your head and pretend like it was grossly unreasonable for me to carve out a twenty minute slice of prep time in the two weeks between co-op classes.  Ahem.)

But honorable and brave woman that I am, I became fully committed to preparing for class 20 minutes before I had to leave for said class.  Procrastination calls for nothing more than a healthy dose of creativity.

As a side-this is probably why my home is in the state it is: The theme is basically “functional chaos”.  While I’ve gotten more organized over the years (I can literally hear some of you snickering right now), I’ve mostly learned the art of “creative cleaning” which is more focused on appearance than legitimate clean.  For instance, I still have papers everywhere, some stuck on the wall, some stuck in “planners” (some good they do me), but mostly I stick them in baskets now.  That’s better.  To actually sort the papers, well, that’s asking me to exert a great deal of my limited decision-making ability.  (How does anyone decide the destination of one more financial paper or half-scribbled coloring page and remain sane?) And when it comes to “cleaning” my kitchen, well…I’m much better at artistically stacking the dishes in such a way that the counter appears clean.  Ta-da! (If you want a further window into my home, read this blog post by my friend about HER HOME. It was scarily relateable and will give you a chuckle!)

But where was I? Yes.  8:50am.  Nothing planned.  So my mind played this out: “It’s fall- we’ll just print out some tree coloring pages.  Yes.  Oh! Here we go…this one is  great (clicking print)..and I can totally have them glue on the extra tissue paper I have cut up from 2 classes ago.  Um…except what are we going to do for glue? I don’t think I have time to find all the glue-y things.  Um…wait…I do however have an excessive number of alphabet stickers.  Alphabet…tree-…the Book!  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!  

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We’ll make a fall themed Alphabet tree and I’ll bring my book if I can find it.  Hallelujah, it’s on the shelf.  What are the odds?  Aaaand…let’s go!”  

So out I ran, probably reminding my kids that they should know enough to get in the car and get buckled without me asking, and probably blaming them somewhat for why we’re always late, when in reality my last-minuteness is killing us.

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When my class started 10 or so kiddos filed in, and the territorial squishy-block wars began as usual, with a couple quieter ones on the fringes playing with magnet dolls or trains.  But then, miracle to behold, my most active boys were totally engaged in the story- kids were chanting “Boom! Boom!” in adorable disunity, and most of the kids sat patiently for the craft as well.  My heart swelled almost as much as my pride as I confidently proclaimed myself “brilliant” and beyond gifted at the art of creative procrastination.  You know what, let’s just call it creativity.

Later that day, I pulled a similar creativity stunt for our non-existent dinner plans- I whipped together some concoction of stew that I believe to be one of my best ever, and which I’ll never be able to duplicate because I, um, just used whatever popped into my head.  Go me.

Except I started thinking…creativity is a blessing, yes…it’s a strength of mine.  But do I sometimes rely on it to avoid actually working?  Yes, sometimes I come up with things on the spot and they are AMAZING.  But other times, my kids suffer from my lack of planning and wonder what on earth the schedule is going to be today?  Sometimes, my spontaneity actually takes up MORE time. Sometimes I think that if I just planned a bit better, I might actually save more money on food and feed my kids less PB&J.  (not that I’m knocking that!)  Maybe what I’d like to call creativity is a cover up for weaknesses I’m less thrilled to admit- being late to things, feeling overwhelmed simply because I didn’t sort out my week, not giving myself FULLY to a task or following through completely on things because I’m creatively bandaiding it for now.

For the life of me, if I knew how to insert an emoticon, I’d put a sad little questioning face right here.

I’ve been thinking about how our strengths can often be part of our weaknesses…  About what it means to acknowledge what I’m good at and what I’m not and surrender it all to God to be used in His way.  And that probably means I need to wake up a little and do some housecleaning of my heart and stop making excuses for the parts of myself that need work.

What about you?  Where have you found that your strengths and weaknesses collide?  What practical steps have you taken to address your weaknesses?  How have you found yourself surrendering it all to God?  I’d love to hear your story!

Quiz!: Who’s Your Ideal Pastor?

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Our church is in the process of adding an additional pastor to our leadership team, which got me thinking about the sheer variety of people that are represented in our congregation.  It’s a beautiful thing to me that people with such different perspectives and even preferences can lay those aside and meet together even when their “ideals” aren’t totally met…that is really the definition of sacrificial family love.  Still, my friend and I joked about a “pastor quiz” to find out what different pastor types people in a church might prefer, and it seemed a bit too whimsical to pass up…so enjoy!

WHO’S YOUR IDEAL PASTOR?

Question 1: When it comes to your pastor’s speaking Style, you’d prefer:

  • A) the louder and angrier the better
  • B) Upbeat; frequently use of pop-culture references
  • C) Intellectual; Frequent use of Greek/Hebrew language (You expect to have to look up at least three vocabulary words/message that you didn’t know the meaning to.)
  • D) A Suave presentation, preferably in an Irish or British accent

Question 2: What is the ideal appearance of your pastor?

  • A) Very intimidating and serious; formal attire
  • B) Distressed jeans, band t-shirt, and lots of visible tattoos
  • C) Mature and Scholarly, tweed jacket- bow tie optional
  • D) Muscular with Wavy hair and charming smile

Question 3: What kind of family should the pastor have?

  • A) Married to a formidable woman named Brunhilda- no kids
  • B) Married with 2 young kids (one boy, one girl) named Harlow-Grace and Maddox
  • C) Married to a professor of biophysics; has one adult son currently graduating with honors from Princeton Theological Seminary
  • D) None. He’s single.  Very single.

Question 4: If your pastor planned a Christmas message, what would he call it?

  • A) The Wreath of Wrath
  • B) E.L.F. (Emmanuel Lives Forever)
  • C) Exegetic Symposium on the Incarnate Deity
  • D) Jesus and Mary Marry Me

Question 5: How might your ideal pastor spend their free time? 

  • A) Megaphone shopping
  • B) At a Twenty-One Pilots concert after eating at that cool new sushi place
  • C) For fun, mentally sorting Jacob’s sons both alphabetically and by mother
  • D) Pining alone…

Question 6: Your Pastor’s favorite Bible Story/Passage is:

  • A) The Plagues of Egypt
  • B) The Message version of the Prodigal Son or Jesus serving wine at the wedding feast
  • C) Paul’s discussion of predestination in Romans 8:29
  • D) Song of Solomon

Question 7: If you could think of a song title to describe your pastor, it would be:

  • A) Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash)
  • B) Gang of Rhythm (Walk Off the Earth)
  • C) Doxology (Hymn)
  • D) I’m Too Sexy (Right Said Fred)

Question 8: What FRIENDS quote best represents your pastor?

  • A) Ross: “You could not be any more wrong. You could try, but you would not be successful.”
  • B) Chandler: “Hi,I’m Chandler.  I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable.”  
  • C) Ross: “Of course you can defend yourself from an attack you know is coming, that’s not enough. Look, I studied karate for a long time, and there’s a concept you should really be familiar with. It’s what the Japanese call ‘unagi.’ … Maybe it means [freshwater eel] too. 
  • D) Joey: “How you doin’?”

Question 9: When your pastor greets you, he should:

  • A) Firmly grip and shake your hand while staring sternly, leaving you with an odd guilty feeling
  • B) Give you a half hand-shake half-hug combo
  • C) Nod at you respectfully while holding an enormous study Bible with concordance
  • D) Gaze at you deeply with his piercing, blue eyes

Question 10: Who is your pastor’s role model?

  • A) Jonathan Edwards
  • B) Matt Chandler
  • C) Tim Keller
  • D) A Tie Between Channing Tatum and David Bekham

RESULTS:

  • MOSTLY As) FIRE & BRIMSTONE PASTOR.  You’re looking for someone who is firm, bold, loud and angry.  You want someone who isn’t afraid to challenge you to your face, and constantly leaves you with the feeling that you’ve forgotten to repent of something.  You can count on intense sermons with no subtlety or apologies.

 

  • MOSTLY Bs) MODERN/HIP PASTOR. If the world is going modern, you pastor might as well match!  You’re looking for someone trendy and fun, who has a pulse on pop culture as well as spirituality.  With an accessible family and hip hobbies, this pastor will challenge you with humor and knowledge…and always in style!

 

  • MOSTLY Cs) THE THEOLOGIAN PASTOR. You want your pastor to be the brainiest of the bunch!  If you’re going to sit and listen to a sermon, it had better have some cutting edge, theological insight that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.  (Think college professor meets church service.)  You want someone who frequently refers to the original Greek and Hebrew in Scripture, dazzles you with his interpretations of Jesus’ parables, and leaves you with copious notes to study on your own.

 

  • MOSTLY Ds) THE DATE-ABLE PASTOR.  Your pastoral qualification are basically: tall, dark, and handsome. Umm…I hate to break it to you, but you’re more interested in a date than a pastor.  Maybe this isn’t the quiz for you.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Suffering: The Weight of Hope and Praise

Lately I’ve been wrestling with a body not yet thirty years old that may never work the way most people’s do.  My diabetic levels remain high, the numbers are all wrong, and I look back and has it really been this way for months on end? Why do I try so hard, pray so much…yet here I am with this invisible weight?

And then…I’ve been watching friends around me wrestle too.  Wrestle with worse.  Grapple with emotional and physical and family issues that I’m quite sure would warp and bend me till I broke.  And I’ve seen these same people pray, cry out to God, and sometimes…so it seems…their situations have only gotten worse.  And my soul aches for their ache.

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And yet I’ve been sensing, over and over, that I’m meant to be “unshaken”.  That I’m meant to trust God, and trust Him, and trust Him.  I believe He keeps asking me when I get frustrated and weary, “Do you trust me? Do you trust me if you numbers never get better?  If it’s like this forever?  If it only gets worse?

And why would I?  Why would I trust a God who asks me that?  Why would I trust Him for my friends?  I can only trust because He’s a God who gave up everything for me…bled for me, was bent and broken for me, and in humility defeated death for me.  I’ve found that when everything else is moving, shaking, that God is the same yesterday. today. tomorrow.  And how incredibly thankful I am that He doesn’t change because that means He is always Love.  He is always Life.  He is always Hope…always a Good Father.

Is it possible that true trust in God must come only through suffering?  Is it possible that suffering actually produces in me a stronger hope than ease could produce?  I’m slowly…oh so slowly… coming to understand what Paul says in Romans 5:3-5

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I desperately crave that Hope that suffering produces.

FURTHER, is it possible that suffering produces a different kind of praise?  God wants my praise at all times, yes, but there’s a praise that follows blessing and there’s a different kind of praise that follows pain.  Both are good, but maybe there’s a weight to our praise through pain that we simply can’t replicate at other times.

There’s a story (Mark 12:41-44) where Jesus points out a widow who gave a very small amount of money to God.  Yet Jesus marvels at her faith because she put in “everything…she had to live on”.  And though others gave more, they gave out of their abundance…out of their extra…though they gave more, it didn’t COST them as much.  Perhaps the same is true of the cost of our praise.

When we feel that we have nothing left to give- when our circumstances are screaming lies like “what if God isn’t really  good?  What if He doesn’t love you or isn’t strong enough to save you?  Why would you trust Him?”  Maybe then our praise costs a bit more… When we feel that the answer isn’t coming and we have no blessing to stand on, the weight of our praise is powerful.  The sound of that praise is deafening.

As my mom said today, the enemy simply can’t stand in praise like that.  If we can praise God in the MIDDLE of the worst, when it costs us everything to hope, the Kingdom of God is more alive than ever.  It’s advancing, growing deeper roots, spreading like beautiful vines that are taking over the death and destruction and the darkness of this world.

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When God can produce praise from our suffering through His own love, through His own sacrifice and presence… the enemy. simply. can’t. stand.

His lies must stop.  His end has been sealed. The victory is ours.

Yet we wait for now in the storm.  To my friends and to those I may never meet… I pray you find strength for where you hurt right now.  I pray God gives you a place to stand in the storm.  I pray that when you’re hard pressed, you’re not crushed; when you’re perplexed, you’re not in despair; when you’re struck down, you’re not destroyed.  I pray you’d KNOW in the core of your being that though you are persecuted you’re NEVER abandoned.   (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

Don’t get me wrong: Praise is not faking happiness.  It isn’t hiding our pain or disappointment from God.  Praise is still looking at God when your world is falling apart.  Praise can be the whisper to “help me in my unbelief” when it would be easier to not talk to God at all.  Praise is hands lifted through tears when no words will come.  Praise is giving God even the tiniest piece of your broken heart, with faltering hands, because deep down you are learning to trust, allowing Him to grow something in you EVEN THOUGH it hurts.  That praise is costly, a sacrifice, yet I believe it’s one of the most beautiful and precious gifts you can give God.

I leave you with this from this song I LOVE by Casting Crowns: Praise You in the Storm

And with this Bible passage from the Message version: (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)

13-15 We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!

16-18 So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

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!

 

Community is a Pain

Guys- I’m going to make an honest confession here:  I’m not sure I like community.  Do I need it?  Yes.  Does it sound wonderful in theory?  Uh-huh.  Community looks cute on TV- like on that show “Extreme Home Makeover”.   All the neighbors and friends rally around a struggling family and show up to support them- the construction people come and give them a home that meets all their needs- and then that bus rolls away and there are tears of joy, and smiles all around, and sometimes even a cute puppy in the background for good measure.  Ahhh…community.  And then…click…I turn it off, and I get to pretend that community ends that way- that it’s always happy, feel good, tears of joy, a bus of blessing.

But real community is kind of…messy, unsettling, annoying, hard work.  Community is like what happens when you try to bake anything with children- it’s going to take longer, there’s going to be arguing, and you’re going to get a whole bunch of flour all over the place.015

Turns out I don’t want the flour all over the place.  I’m a bit of a control freak.  I like to plan my things on my time.  I don’t like waiting.  I’m not particularly good at knowing how to let people help me.  I prefer to be in the driver’s seat, literally, which is why I didn’t let my older brother drive at all on a 16 hour drive to see my parents.  (I didn’t say I was proud of it.)

And why should I ever be vulnerable ever?  Whose bright idea was it to make that a prerequisite for healthy community?  And depending on how honest I’m being, I’d tell you I’m between 68-100% positive that my heart is massively selfish and I struggle to really love anyone and everyone.  Case in point- I maaaaay have told my husband the other day that I was trying to “not seem selfish” but also “do what I want”.  (Like swinging alone for instance.)newport 3

I don’t usually say it out loud, but I think that’s an ongoing undercurrent in my heart, an undertow that threatens to suck me in and drown me in the self-absorption I thought was in my best interest.

Turns out community is really great till it’s inconvenient to me.  Community is fantastic until it means someone has to see my messy side- my needy side- the yelling, irritable, keeping-record-of-wrongs me.  Guys, I can win a complaining contest without breaking a sweat, and as an avid talker I find it easier to gab than listen, easier to use my mouth to complain about something than my hands to work towards fixing it.  Community requires that I use my hands and feet for more than just myself.  Community asks me to let someone else help me up when my pride would rather hide and nurse my struggles by myself.

Community is beautiful till I realize that everyone else is a mess too and it’s not like we’re all getting more and more perfect at a steady rate.  Oh no.  The deeper in we get, the more likely we are to step on an emotional landmine of some kind, more likely to find hurt and more depths of our selfishness and yet…and yet I marvel at how my heart aches for community all the same.  I marvel at how even the sandpaper of community is actually refining me, sanding me a bit smoother.  At least, I’d like to think I’m a bit less likely to give you a sliver today than I was five years ago.

I was made for being with people.  My church family might be the best example of that for me…It offers me hope and love, the faintest picture of what I believe heaven must be like.  I’m surrounded by friends who I know will laugh and cry with me, keep me in check when I’m being a word I can’t use in polite company, and challenge me to grow and love more deeply through their own love.

Yeah.  Community is such a pain.  But it’s the kind of pain that keeps me alive, keeps me from being numb, keeps me from dying in a selfish stupor.

What about you?  Do you struggle with community?  How have you kept your heart vulnerable towards others?  How have you learned to give up your own selfishness?  I’d love to hear because I so struggle with this myself!

 

 

 

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!)

You Homeschool Too

Today I started my second year of homeschooling my kids.  I’m not a saint- really homeschooling is just trading some problems for others.  When my daughter went to public kindergarten, mornings were essentially a drill to see how late we could get up without missing the bus.  It required a lot of determination- last minute bed-waking, yelling to get her dressed in the morning, setting the kitchen timer like a drill sergeant so she finished breakfast in time and barely making the bus.  And with two kiddos still at home, when she returned, my parenting juice was already squeezed out; I felt like I was missing her most days, putting the TV on so she could unwind from a long day while I invented last-minute dinner.

Homeschool is a different crazy- more prep work to do for lessons, more pressure in one more area of their lives to potentially screw up.  On the plus side, I can tweak our schedule and let the kids sleep in if they need.  We can take a two week vacation or a casual sick day without informing any school office.  I don’t drown in  piles of papers from school about homework, fundraisers, events, and fairs.  I love watching my kids giggle and play so much as siblings; to see their personalities as they interact with friends; to teach them some really fun stuff. It’s a trade-off.20160906_105654

Still, sometimes I wonder whether my quantity of time outweighs the quality.  My one-on-one time spreads thin across three kids.  Today for instance, I had to take a break from schooling to rinse a generous blob of shampoo that my 2 year old squeezed in his hair.  Each season requires being willing to flex and do what’s best for our family right now.20160906_105711  So next year may be a new adventure back to public school.

In the meantime, homeschool has taught me a lot about myself and how I view my kids’ education.  And I don’t just mean academics.  Stepping back from the “normal” way of schooling gave me an opportunity to see the system more for what it is: a positive tool my kids can use to learn- a place to build friendships and independence- an experience that helps shape them…but not the end-all teacher.

School, along with church and organized sports and pediatricians and _________ (add your own), all have certain priorities, goals, and methods that sometimes clash with my own.  With your own.  And we need to occasionally take stock of the places where we don’t totally line up with whatever system it is, because those are precisely the places we have to teach our kids at home.  You too.  Me too.20160906_092642

Yes, academics  are important to me- I want my kids to read well, to be able to understand the world around them, to be savvy and comfortable with math and science, and ultimately to be able to use those abilities to impact the world around them in a positive way.

But I also want my kids to know that learning doesn’t just happen when you get an A+ on a paper.  I want them to see, whether at school or church, that knowing the right answer is empty unless you can use it- experience it.  I want my kids to know that family is important, rest is important, and we will take days off of school shamelessly for both reasons.I want my kids to find that love is always a better motivator than competition, success, or pride.  Because love is always focused on how everyone wins, how people are more important than tasks or even grades.  20160906_124318

So I want my kids to love.  I want my kids to dance and be silly and never trade in who they are for anything.  I want them to ask questions and see what I sometimes didn’t see as a young kid- that being the best in school does not define them, does not make them a more valuable human, does not dictate whether they can impact the world.  20160906_090231

Maybe you want the same things for your kids- there’s probably some places we would disagree. But the point is this:  Whether we see our kids 2 hours a day or 5 or 12- you teach your kids, in some ways far more than the schools ever can.  What you teach your kids sets them up for how to use the rest of the tools in their lives- what you teach your kids gives them permission to honor the system while maintaining personal priorities- what you teach your kids goes far beyond academics into soul and character shaping.  You might just be homeschooling more than you think.

So be brave and be strong- we are bound to get it wrong sometimes- but your kids have no more precious teacher.

 

 

Being the Oreo Cream

Are you a “middle” person?

That’s me. I started my career as a neutral middle person during recess at my cozy Massachusetts elementary school.  I don’t feel like recess was sufficiently long for third grade drama to incubate and hatch into full-blown silence treatment- but what do I know?  One day in particular my two best playground friends had some disagreement and wandered off towards the specific destination of being as far away from each other as possible.

Which meant I was alone in the middle.  Why?  Maybe because I didn’t know which of them to follow- you follow one person and Switzerland will deny your application to the ranks of neutrality.  Maybe I thought the recess bell would ring soon and I didn’t have enough party hats and noisemakers to throw a reunion party.  But perhaps it also had something to do with losing my voice.

A middle person has a voice you know- often a strong one, but the middles can be hesitant to speak, to act.  We might not speak because we want to maintain peace, we might keep silent because we don’t think we can change anything, we may prefer “just OK” to ruffling feathers.

Here’s a thought: The world needs the voice of the cookie part of the oreo, but it definitely needs more cream voices speaking up too.

The beauty of being the cream in the middle is that you interact with and grow from both sides of the cookie, without losing your unique identity.  

Recently I was in a situation where I felt rather uncomfortable.  I was listening to the conversation of those around me and I totally felt out of place- as though I’d made group reservations at a dinner place that I thought was casual, but showed up in my jeans and t-shirt to find that everyone else was wearing tiaras, glass slippersballgowns…. OK, apparently my imagination is going with everyone dressed up as Cinderella.

I was a bit squirmy because I couldn’t seem to agree or relate to everyone fully.  I wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t agree in part- but at no point did anyone else at the table say the thoughts that were running through my head.  Uh-oh.

Breath in…breath out…don’t be a baby and cry.  Don’t run away.

So, I didn’t run very far…but at one point in the evening I made my way to the bathroom to breath in the fresh air of being with someone who I belonged with, even if it was just myself.  And in that moment I had what I’ll call a “God-thought”…just this sense that I’m supposed to be a middle person.  That’s kind of my role.  To be where I’m not fully comfortable to not only speak balance into others, but to find balance for myself.  And to grow and be sharpened by the opposite view as well.

See, as much as I didn’t fully agree or fit-in with the present conversation, there was probably another equal and opposite conversation happening somewhere that I wouldn’t fully agree with either.  And there was some poor schmuck dressed as a Cinderella who thought she signed up for ballroom dancing and walked into a square-dance in a country barn.  And she had to choose whether she would hoist up her dress and dance a line-dance in a bit of discomfort, or run away so fast she’d leave a slipper behind.

At some level, we’ve all been the middle person somewhere.  It’s a lot easier to stay with the middle people who think just like us…but that’s not a very good soil for growth.

Maybe you find yourself in the middle of…

  • Parenting Philosophies (i.e. Schooling options, food choices, the growing Pokemon-Go debate, etc.)
  • Church Stuff (i.e. values between two different churches, leadership values, music choices, etc.)
  • All Things Family (i.e. communication styles, disagreements, vacation preferences, etc.)
  • Relationships (i.e. strong opinions between mutual friends, different values in the workplace, introvert and extroverts, etc.)

You can be a middle person and have a strong opinion.  And you can actually keep being a middle-person without hiding your opinion in an inconspicuous corner of your sock drawer.  In fact, to be a healthy middle person means that you get to be a bridge to two different sides.  (Kind of like my little cozy-coupe driver who is quite comfortable between two very different ride-on toys.  OK, just go with me here…I didn’t feel like hunting for a perfect oreo picture that would leave you running away for a snack.)

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I’m realizing lately that I would be missing out on a lot of healthy balance if I always ran away from the places I felt a little out of place in. Maybe being in the middle is where I’m called to be, not to water down my beliefs, not to be a little doormat-people-pleaser who agrees with everyone to keep the peace- but to grow more into God’s heart which just so happens to love people on both sides of any cookie.

Where’s your “middle”?  Are you trying to run back to neutral ground, or are you learning to grow and be a bridge?

When Your Role-Shifter is Stuck

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                   friends.wikia.com

I’m a wife- a mom- a sister- a writer- a coffee drinker- a fan of Tom Selleck. (But that’s probably for another post.)  I’m lots of things simultaneously, because…well, aren’t we all?  Some of who I am overlaps neatly: coffee, for instance, can work quite nicely as a date with my husband, fuel for motherhood, an excuse to get with friends, a place to squeeze in distraction free-writing, and can even be enjoyed while watching an episode of Friends where Monica dates Richard.  (I promise that’s the last Tom Selleck reference.)

Some parts of who I am and the roles I play mix well- others don’t.  Writing, for instance, is not something best tried in the middle of watching three children.  You’re going to end up with either bizarre blogging or a bizarre household, and neither is pretty.

So while I love to write ABOUT my kids, I have to separate my role of mother and writer for everyone’s well-being.

But I’m realizing the trickiest roles for me to properly sort are those of mother and wife.  To be honest, I function most often in mother-mode.  My cue to get out of bed in the morning is usually when my husband comes in to tell me bye as he heads out for work.  When he comes home, we have an hour or more of dinner and bedtime routines with the kids, at which point my kids promptly take as long as possible to fall asleep.  Sometimes my husband and I look at each other with a sigh at 9pm wondering why the kids are still chatting upstairs, or shuffling through our peripheral to get to the bathroom while we’re trying to watch a movie.  So mom-mode is almost always on.

Wife mode, on the other hand, easily slips into secondary function.  In fact, wife-mode sometimes devolves into sorting and delegating the other roles in my life.  I coordinate kid stuff with my husband, divvy up household responsibilities like which one of us will pick up the milk and peanut butter, and discuss which of us gets a night OUT of the house.

On the nights that my husband goes out for a much deserved social or sport outing, I take my mom-role up another level, just enough to score a bedtime win, and then I’m done.  And by done, I mean I’m ready for tea and a movie or book, or some really focused time with God. Heaven forbid my children should interrupt this moment.

And heaven forbid my husband should come home when I’m still shifting out of mom-role and haven’t had my me-time yet.  Because then, poor guy, I act like this home has been my territory for the last 12 hours, and if he can’t be home for bedtime he has a lot of gall showing up before the kids have been in bed at least an hour.  The nerve of him for coming home at a reasonable time.  Geesh.

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   My “interrupted-me-time” face, obviously.

This whole blog post started because I misread a quote from an interview with Indra K Nooyi.  Nooyi said, “every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions.”  And while she meant that you have to choose between your professional role and being a wife AND mother, I initially read it as a woman having to choose between being a wife OR mother.

But that got me thinking- maybe for me, I do need to choose sometimes.  Maybe I need to get better at just being a wife.  Maybe I get so caught up in trying to be a good mom, or at least an improving mom, who teaches my kids and takes them fun places and cleans up most at least 20% of their messes, that I forget to really invest in my role as wife.  I forget to invest in my husband.  I make all kinds of excuses for my wife-role because I simply have so many other roles to fill.

But then something doesn’t feel quite right- almost like I’m coexisting with my husband in parallel worlds that are connected but somehow not quite overlapping like they should.  I don’t think it has to be that way.

My husband is a wonderful man, and he loves me more than I’ll ever comprehend.  And because I love him back I need to better learn how to fully embrace my wife-role, even if I get stuck mid-gear sometimes.

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I can post ways I’ve tried to work on this in the future, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear what YOU have tried.  Please share ways you’ve invested in your spouse and how you’ve honored that role over the years.  Thanks!