Thursday, March 9, 2017

Zooming Out

While browsing through Facebook one day, I found this really cool article about famous landmarks. They took 15 places and showed what they looked like zoomed out. It was amazing to see Mt. Rushmore, Santorini and Central Park from a different perspective. But the one place that drew me in was the Taj Mahal. 

Look at this beauty. Perfect landscaping, incredible architecture, pretty much perfection. 




Then came the zoomed out photo.This unbelievably gorgeous site is in the middle of all this filth. Trash everywhere. I was shocked. So much so that I decided to do a little more research to see if it was really that dirty there. (I know, I know. Everything the internet says is true so I should have just left it.) But apparently, this is correct. 





Now I don’t have any plans to visit India so that isn’t why this caught my eye. The picture was just so reflective of what I see all the time. This perfect life that we portray. We are living in a world of cropping and filters. And not just on our social media feed. 


A selfie posted on Instagram where we are in full make-up, hair is perfect and we are smiling from ear to ear. But if we zoomed out we would see a house filled with laundry and dishes and bills to pay. 

We snapshot our vacations and tell everyone how fun it is. But if we took the filter off it would reveal the tension of reigning in toddlers, traveling with babies and stressing over the money it costs for us to take this vacation. 

We buy beautiful houses and keep them in immaculate condition in hopes that everyone will focus their attention on it and not on the fact that we live a separate life from our spouse and haven’t been happy in years. 

We take up causes that may very well be good and noble, but we throw ourselves into them so that we can avoid our own life problems. 

And guess what- we are not doing anyone favors here. Especially ourselves. Has anyone out there ever had a situation change by denying that it exists? Zooming in on the Taj Mahal doesn’t actually take away the garbage all around it. Just like getting another promotion or more money doesn’t take away or fix the fact that you have broken relationships and turmoil around you. You might look good close up, but zoom out a bit and there it is. 

But the thing is, we all have that garbage. We all have places of brokenness and mess. We all have the toys thrown around the house, or the kids that misbehave, or relationships that need healing. We all have something. And it’s when we acknowledge it in ourselves and in others that we can start to clean up some of it. 

I have some of the dearest friends a person could ever hope for. Friends who really share a life with us. We didn’t get there by pretending to have all of our shit together. We grew close in the mess. In the times that I have been so broken and spent and they graciously allowed me to be unfiltered and completely exposed. And in those times they offered me grace and love and hope. And when the time came, I did the same for them. Their mess didn’t scare me. Because slowly, over the years, we had already started zooming out from the perfection. We were not trying to pretend we were something we were not. And it has allowed for beautiful relationships and growth. 

The other day I was playing outside with my son. He said “Mom, let me take your picture.” I did one smiling and it actually wasn’t too bad. But he said “no, that doesn’t work. Do a funny one.” So I did and he said it was PERFECT. I have no make up on (which is 98% of my life), the dog is judging me, the lawn needs mowing, on and on. It has no filter, no cropping, just as it is. And to be honest, I am this weird all the time.







So today I am determined to be a little more open, a little more zoomed out, a little more me with those I am around. It might be messy. And uncomfortable. But for those who love me most, they say it’s perfect. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Internal Dialogue

Let me start this blog with a question- What do you say to yourself when you mess up? You knock the glass off the counter and it shatters everywhere. Or you hit the car in front of you at the stop sign. Or maybe you yell at your kid when you are frustrated. What is the internal dialogue that you have when something like this happens? 

Mine goes like this, “well, you screwed that up. Like you always do. Why do you always mess everything up?” 

I know. Internal dialogue me is pretty mean. Occasionally external dialogue me can be just as bad. But I am being honest with you here. Its almost always my first thought. And I am going to bet I am not the only one who does this. Maybe its not those exact words, but I bet it is something that is just as harsh, and also untrue

I have been saying this to myself for as long as I can remember. It’s been the background dialogue every time I feel inadequate. It’s the whisper in the garden of Eden from the snake to Eve asking “can you really trust the heart of God?” My whisper is “You sure mess things up a lot. How could God love someone like you? How could anyone love someone like you?” And let me tell you, it feels so true. It feels like I screw up all the time. It feels like things could be so much better if I wasn’t around. It feels so true. And yet- it’s not. 

The last several years I have become more aware of these words and thoughts that pass through my head when things go wrong. And they bother me now. I also have friends and a husband who can call it out quickly and say “hold on, you didn’t do anything wrong here. This isn’t your fault.” And now the words feel less true most of the time. Their power feels to be weakening. But there are days that are harder than others. 

Last week, I was mowing the lawn. One of my favorite activities. I sit on the mower listening to podcasts or music and ride for a couple hours at a time. It is very relaxing for me.  I was riding along enjoying a beautiful fall day and I came too close to the pool we had bought the kids over the summer and I cut it with the mower. This is one of those inflatable pools that are pretty big. Not the flimsy $20 plastic pools. So it felt like a big deal. My first thought was “F@&K!!!!” (I would love to pretend it was “well shucks. thats a bummer,” but it wasn’t.) I texted Tony to tell him about it and how I could not believe I did that. What the hell is wrong with me?!?  He was kind enough to offer words to bring me back to reality. Catch my breath. And see this wasn’t that big of a deal. 

I got it together, got back on the mower and started listening to worship music. As I was riding along I hear Jesus say to me “You are worth more than the pool.” It took a minute. or 2. or 10. But as I rode along my land I finally let those words sink into my heart. “I AM worth more than the pool.” I never even realized that the words that I kept saying to myself had become a self worth issue.  Does it suck that the pool is ruined? Sure. Is it hard when we make mistakes? Yes.. But it doesn’t devalue my worth. Not to myself. Not to my husband. Certainly not to my God. I AM WORTH MORE THAN THE POOL. 

I know there are lots of scriptures in the Bible about how we much we are worth to God. And I want to believe all of them. I want to say I am worth more than jewels and believe it. And one day I have hope I will. But today-I am worth more than the pool. And guess what?? So are you!
We are worth more than our mistakes, our failures, our shortcomings, our inadequacies. We are worth more than dreams that didn’t pan out and hope that has been diverted. We are worth more than the house, the car, the clothes, the makeup, the stuff. And certainly more than the stupid blow up pool. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Quality over Quantity


About a month ago I decided I wanted to host some get togethers with moms at Rafi’s school. I figured most of our kids will be together for a long time (her school goes K-12) so it would be a great thing to get to know some of the other women. 

I put out an open invitation (because I’m insane) to any mom who wanted to join me for happy hour. I got a pretty good response at first and then the usual- I can’t do evenings, I can’t do Thursdays, I can only do lunch for 23 minutes starting at 11:42. Y'all know how this works. 
So I encouraged those moms who could only do daytime to start their own group. Invite anyone and everyone from school. Let’s catch as many moms as we can and build community. And guess what?? They did! It was awesome. They had a great turn out for their daytime coffee. 

And guess what else?? My happy hour didn’t. It worked better for most moms to go to the morning group. And if I am just going to be totally honest, I was disappointed. “I am the one who had this idea. Why is someone else getting all the credit for this?? Why can’t my event be just as big?” 

And I realized there are so many places in my life where quantity outweighs quality. Growing up in American Christianity most of what seems to be success is driven by numbers. The more people at the event, the more successful. And that is just not always true. 

I can recall a church when I was a young adult that everyone would say “I love going there. You can always find a date. There is no holy spirit, but lots of single people.” It was even dubbed “The Meat Market.” Really? Is that success? I guess if you are running a speed dating event the answer would be yes, but trying to connect people to Jesus, well I’m going out on a limb and saying no. 

And the problem with this mentality is that is spills over into other areas of my life. I may be present with my children hours upon hours of a day, yet spending no quality time. I’m consumed with cleaning, cooking, organizing, drop off, pick up… the list goes on. And me being around them is great, but stopping and looking at them and having a conversation about whatever they want- that does way more good. Today I spent 1 hour pretending a gigantic stuffed animal was wrestling my son. He asked me what round we were on and I said “8 gazillion,” because it sure felt like it. But he was so happy. He told me later in the day “You are the best mom I could ever hope for.” That didn’t come from me washing his clothes while he sat in front of the TV. Quality over quantity.

Or in my marriage. Tony and I have spent many nights with a few hours to ourselves after the kids go to bed. And there have been many times we are sitting in the same room and not engaged with each other at all. But lately we have been actively fighting for time together. Going over chapters in a book, telling each other about our day, planning upcoming events together. And there is such a great connection that comes from nights like this. Because what it says is “you are worth my time. You are important.” Quality over quantity. 

The happy hour came and there were 6 of us there. And you know what- it was amazing. Because when you have a small group of people- you can have quality conversations. I got to know some of the other moms on a much deeper level than I ever would have with 20 people around. It’s just how it works. We got to sit out on the patio of a beautiful vineyard and dive a little deeper into each others stories. And I am so incredibly thankful for that. 


Isn’t that one of the things our hearts want most? To have deep relationships with people we love and in return love us. I am realizing those relationships are cultivated over much time and in much smaller groups. Popularity is fun. Big crowds can be cool. Surface level conversations are easy. But digging into each others mess and coming out friends- that is where Jesus is. Showing love always. So I am fighting for quality. With a small tribe of people. Who must be just as crazy as me.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mom Treaty For a New School Year

It’s back to school time. All the feelings of excitement, nervousness, anticipation. It’s here. We are buzzing around the house (and stores) getting ready. Our last couple days have been filled with talks of who will be in class? What will the new teacher be like? Will we make any friends? And when I say WE, I mean ME! not Rafi. 

Honestly, Rafi is way more laid back when it comes to this. She is secure in knowing she will have a couple kids from last year in class and will make new friends. She is certain she will love her new teacher. I on the other hand, am having an internal struggle. I love Rafi’s kinder teacher and she has become my friend. Now I am starting over with a new one. And most of the mom’s I have gotten to know will be in other classes. I have to go through another year of trying to explain my weird humor, sarcasm, and the fact that I wear work out clothes even though I am not working out. And then I have to hope that someone else gets me. At least 1 person. (fingers crossed) 

The problem is that you know as moms, we can be super judgmental of other moms. “Why is she always late? Why is her kid’s hair always messy? Why does she let her kid eat non-organic food?” Like putting someone else down is ever really going to make you feel better?!? 

And it’s hard to walk into that. All the anxiety of having to live up to the cool moms. The moms who have older kids and “know everything” about the school because they have been there for years. The moms who send their kids with perfect clothes and hair. It’s exhausting. And ridiculous. And doesn’t bring life or joy to anyone. (Side note- If you have not seen Bad Mom you should. I wish they were exaggerating on moms being like this but they are not) 

So I say we pinky promise to not be shitty to one another. Let’s just try it. For a whole year. Let’s not judge the mom who is running late because maybe she works night shift as a nurse and is trying her hardest to get there. Let’s not assume someone doesn’t care how they look because they are in sweat pants and no make up. Maybe they have a parent in the hospital and have been stressing over if they will be able to make it through the illness or not. Maybe someone does want to feed their kid organic food, but right now they are just trying to make ends meet. 

Finding out someone else’s situation and story will help each of us to not make assumptions and judgements. But this will require us to be friendly and invest in each other. When you go to drop off your kids are they all in school? Why don’t you invite a mom out to coffee who has 2 or 3 more little ones at home still. Trust me, she can use the company. Have you been at the school for a while and know the ins and outs of sports, field trips, etc? Well why don’t you offer some advice to those who may be new or struggling instead of just trying to be in some weird, exclusive club. 

Let’s just do it as a social experiment. If it doesn’t help, well we can go back to being “Mean Girls” and wearing pink on Wednesdays. But my guess is you will  be happier by not judging, and not being judged. We are all so different and can learn so much from one another if we would just break the walls down. So cheers to you all who are in full make-up and dresses at drop off. To those who are in no makeup and stretchy pants. To those who work outside of the home and those who work inside the home. To those who count macros and those who eat donuts in the morning. We are all doing the best we can.


Here is to a great school year.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Embrace

At the beginning of each year I pray and ask God what my “word” for the year is.  This is a practice that I have done over the last few years and it has proven to be extremely helpful in navigating through the year. (You can read about my Journey for Joy  from 2015)

This year’s word threw me off from the start.  EMBRACE.  Well, that doesn’t sound like fun.  I immediately thought of a physical embrace and for anyone that has known me some time- you can recall that I am certainly not a hugger.  Or I used to not be.  I am getting a bit better as God softens my heart.  I usually only like to hug if I am the initiator, and I know the person pretty well.  But just last week I saw my friend Dana and we hugged and we had a great laugh about how it wasn’t even that awkward for me.  I didn’t go in with my mouth half open like an uncomfortable first date kiss.  We were both pretty impressed with my growth. 

However, as this year has progressed I realize that is not what God had in mind.  As I mentioned in a previous blog it has been a difficult year of loss.  We lost both Tony’s dad and my grandma in just 2 weeks.  We finally felt like we could take a breath for a day after my grandma’s funeral and the kids and I were out playing in the yard one morning. They saw my neighbor and went running over to say hello and her cat had died, who of course my kids adored. (Because we won't let them have one) And it hasn’t just been through death that loss has happened. We inherited 3 chicks who all turned out to be roosters. Seriously, what are the chances?!? So between all the death we also had to get rid of 2 chickens. My kids were once again crushed. I am sure chickens may not be a hard loss for some, but when you are 6 & 4 its a pretty big deal. 

And then, yesterday,  my friend moved across the world.  My friend that has lived life alongside me, almost daily, for over 7 years.  When we met she had 2 kids and I wasn’t even pregnant with Rafi yet. Since then we have added 4 kids to the crew between us.  We have seen birth. Experienced the loss of parents and grandparents.  Have served endless hours in ministry.  Have seen many women be healed and freed.  And have experienced so much of that for ourselves.  Job changes.  House moves.  Celebrated joys.  Cried from sorrows. Ran a million miles (I should be skinnier).  Sent zillions of texts.  Hours of phone calls. You get it.  We are friends.  Really great friends.  And she has moved to Singapore.  Just for a couple years, but still, way too far and too much change than I am comfortable with. 

Now, back to my word for the year. What does embrace have to do with any of this?  Well, let me tell you what starts to happen internally to me after all this loss.  My dialogue goes something like: "Why bother loving people or investing in relationship when eventually they won't be here?  Don't get too close because this is going to end up hurting.  Life is just so much easier when you trust little, love little and do everything on your own."  (Am I the only one that occasionally has these thoughts?!?). I know deep down this isn't true, but sometimes it feels like this is the safest path to travel.  

But I have clung to that word and God has reminded me often this year that I must embrace change.  That I should love people well while I still have them.  That his plans are always better than mine, and embracing his love, grace and mercy will always lead to goodness. 


So life looks different a little over half way through the year than it did at the beginning.  We have had some loss, but we have gained much.  Since January we have moved to a new house and added a joyful baby to the family.  We are now the proud owners of 3 chickens (2 of which are not roosters-hooray).  We have made new friends, gained great neighbors and grown closer to our families. We have had a deeper understanding of God's love, provision, and plans for our lives.  

And the bonus that I didn't ever see coming was how much Tony and I would grow together through all this change.  Learning to lean on one another through the pain, joy, and adventure.  After ten years of marriage we may finally be getting this thing down! 


What does your 2016 look like so far? It's a good time to do a check and make the most out of the rest of the year. Join me in embracing goodness, kindness, joy, Jesus- and when it's not too awkward- each other. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

#KindnessMatters

Lately when I hop on Facebook I find myself channeling Dory and singing “Just keep scrolling, just keep scrolling.”  There is so much anger, arguing, and pure ridiculousness. I have seen so many debates lately from the recent killings, to the presidential candidates, to church and the afterlife. It’s insanity.  And at a time in our country where we need to come together, we spend every moment fighting about who is right and who is wrong with EVERY…SINGLE…THING. 


After getting myself worked up over some of these discussions in my own head, I had a couple thoughts I wanted to share.


First- Facebook is not the place to hash out life altering theological debates or really anything of substance.  If anyone finds a discussion thread that ends with someone saying "wow! You have totally changed my opinion through this back and forth Facebook conversation."  Please screen shot it and send to me. In the meantime I will be riding my unicorn over to fairyland. 

Second- since Facebook isn't the place for this- how do we have these discussion???  I'm glad you asked.  Back before social media, people did this crazy shit called "face to face conversations."  I know.  Sounds like a myth.  It's actually not. You know my husband and I still invite people over to our home regularly for dinner? (Gasp)  And a lot of times controversial things come up. (Double gasp)  It is so much better to discuss with someone when you can see their face and hear their tone.  I encourage everyone to give this dying practice another shot. It really helps. 

Third-what I think the world needs most right now is kindness.  And I don't mean fake kindness.  Not where we are saying hateful things but using a preface of "I am saying this in love."  No you are not!  You are saying it to prove a point without wanting to be an asshole. It's like in the south when we say "bless her heart.”  It gives us the right to say anything:  "bless her heart, she is just so fat." Really?!?  Is that a blessing??? 

So what's the best way to show kindness in these tense situations where our world is falling apart, people are being murdered, and hatred is running rampant?  How do we love each other well?  I think one of the best possible things you can do is just shut the f**** up.  Some of you are holding your breath right now after that word just popped into your brain. (by the way I said Frank- what are you thinking?)  Keep holding it.  Every time you want to talk over someone.  Every time you want to drill your point in and not let them speak.  Every time you think you know how someone else is feeling.  Every time you want to reply back to someones status on Facebook for the sake of arguing.  Think of that word and shut your mouth.  

I am not saying we shouldn’t discuss things. It is the only way we can start to make a better world.  But in order for us to really have these discussions, someone has to talk and someone has to listen.  We need to know each others stories.  If you knew mine, you would know why I care so deeply about community, living out of the truest parts of who you are, and the deep desire to bring joy into every day. If I knew yours I would understand why you have the opinions you do, believe in the things you do, celebrate the things you do.  But you wont know about me if you are always blabbing. And I won’t know about you if I am.  So let’s all do each other a favor and give someone a turn to talk.  And let’s listen to them.  Really listen.  Not sit and wait for your chance to tell them (or type out) why they are wrong.  


Finally- it is occasionally better to be kind, than to prove you’re right. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Goodness

Tony and I have a conversation that is on repeat every time we decide to watch a movie together. It goes like this:

Tony: “Hey, what movie do you want to fall asleep to?” (Because I NEVER stay awake) 
Me: “Whatever, as long as it is funny.”

Seriously, every.single.time. 

If there is some depth to it, I am normally out. Hurt, pain, death… nope. Not me. I would just as soon throw on an episode of Modern Family I have seen a dozen times and laugh. Who wants to watch people crying on the screen. Blah. I am getting ill thinking about it. 

We were with friends last weekend and it was really comical to talk this out. Me explaining my serious desire to laugh and being so turned off by the thought of watching any kind of drama. 
So much so that I can barely relate to other people with movies because unless it is funny or a kids movie, I probably have not seen it. 

But here is the deal. We live in a world that is soooooo f-ing depressing. You turn the news on (which FYI- I try not to EVER do that) it is all horrible. Radio- depressing. Facebook- OH my Lord. Every single thing that can go wrong, its trending. The other night I couldn’t sleep and in a matter of 5 minutes on Facebook I saw- A man was killed by a bear riding his bike, the Texas and Florida beaches are filled with flesh eating bacteria, and a mom in Texas shot her 2 girls in the front yard and killed them in front of their dad. 
What thaaaaa haaaeelllll… Y’all. It’s just so hard out there. BUT- I think it’s always been this hard. It’s just that all news is reported now and so everything is in our face. And it feels overwhelming. And occasionally, I don’t want to shock anyone, but sometimes things are a bit exaggerated. 

Think about the last month. Kid falls in Gorilla Enclosure and everyone is an expert on gorillas and parenting. A child dies at Disney and everyone is an expert on alligators, proper signage at theme parks, and again- parenting. I read about the man who was killed by a bear and you guessed it- everyone was an expert on bears- and mountain biking. In all of these scenarios, through traditional and social media, everyone just seemed really angry on all sides. And what gives? People lost their lives. Do we not just feel sadness for them? For their families? 

It just seems that we are so inundated with negative information we have become cold to the fact that people matter. Their lives matter. And we have truly lost the fact that there is still so much good in this world. 

Our last month has been a complete shit fest. My father in law became ill after a surgery and after 2 weeks of fighting off multiple infections he ended up passing away. The following week as we prepared for his celebration which would be at our house, my dad called to tell me my grandma was in the hospital and not expected to make it. She passed the following week. 

BUT, here is what else happened over the last month. We had so many calls, cards, text messages and visits from people letting us know they were thinking of us and praying for us. We had friends come and help me clean the house so it would be ready for my father in laws celebration. We had people bring tables, chairs, and shade structures so we could accommodate 50 people at our house with 6 days notice. I had friends take my kids for the day so I could go grocery shopping and to the gym for 1 hour of sanity in all of this. We had people come and serve our guests and clean up after so that we didn’t have to worry about anything. At my grandma’s funeral I got to see all my aunts and uncles pull together to support one another. There were tears but there was lots of laughter. There were great stories told. So many hugs that even I gave in and handed a few out. And so much joy. Joy to be with family. Joy to be connected to others. Joy to stop for a moment and reminisce and laugh. Joy in knowing that life does not end here, but that their stories are just beginning. 

There is much good in the world because there are lots of good people in the world. I have seen it over the last month in my friends and family. I know there are times it can be hard to spot. Sometimes the world does seem all bad. But we have to make a choice in those times to find the goodness. Look at the faces of your children and you will see it. 


So occasionally skip over the drama and action films and pick Anchorman, Old School or Pitch Perfect. Set yourself up for a successful day of laughter and then go tackle the world. It looks like a much better place after you have laughed for 2 hours. And then share all that joy with others. I am still on a naive path of believing that laughter, kindness and joy can change the world- one person at a time.