Thursday, January 25, 2018

Community

I am an extrovert.  I am sure this is super hard to believe if you have ever met me or read any of my FB posts. I love to have my house filled with people, kids running everywhere and thrive in a bit of chaos.  AND, on the flip side,  I like to do many things alone.  I like to make decisions alone, take only my own advice and believe I know what’s best in every situation.  I like to disregard other people’s emotions and once I have made a decision, there is no changing it. It’s worked out really well for me as you can imagine. (I also speak fluent sarcasm so if you don’t, it’s probably best to stop reading.) 

As I have gotten older, or maybe it’s my kids getting older,  I realize that I am not actually the expert on every situation.  It took a few beers and lots of tears to even admit to that.  “Other people might know a better way of doing things?”  Man, what a hard sentence to get out.  But at this point in my life, I am so thankful I can see that.  I am more grateful for community than I have ever been before.  

When you are younger and life is far less difficult, community is fun.  It is people who you like to grab a bite with, or watch a movie with.  But now, into my mid 30’s community is necessary.  Something about this stage of life is difficult.  Most of my friends have been married for over a decade, some going on 2.  The excitement of dating, engagements and dream weddings are long gone.  The anticipation of babies and growing families is behind us, as we all mostly have several children now.  And this is where life starts to really be lived.  The day to day grind of sustaining marriages, raising children, and growing up yourself.  

As someone who could do so many things alone, and sometimes prefers to, I was shocked at how much I really do need others.  This village of people that I am surrounded with have saved me.  They have shaped me. They have helped me to become a better wife, mom and friend.  They have believed in me, when I don’t believe in myself.  They have loved my kids when I think they are wild and out of control and don’t know how they will grow up to be kind people.  They support my marriage and always see the good in it, even when I struggle.

It really does take a village to raise a child, and in so many ways, to raise an adult.  I am so glad that when I can’t see good in a day I can call Michelle and she is guaranteed to see the bright side of something.  Or when Beck is crying at drop off I can call Mallory and she can give me comfort in knowing that she has been there, and it really will be ok.  For Zelia who forces me to remember that I am not JUST a mom, and gets me out of the house for late night dinner dates or past my bedtime Karaoke.  I am so glad I have my friend Lindsay who has taught me much about motherhood, especially with girls. I have learned boatloads about gratitude and seeing children raised well from my friend Melinda, and about moving the fine line of friendship to family from Amy.  Some friends have walked with me through years of life, and others I have been fortunate enough to meet more recently.  Some I get to talk to all the time, and some less often.  And there are so many more in my circle of beautiful friends who influence me and push me to be better that I would have to write a whole book to include them all.  


So for this moment, I am sitting in a place of gratitude for them all.  And I invite you to take a minute and do that too.  Think about your village and all you have to be thankful for.  Tell them.  Give them a hug if you are into that weird kind of thing.  Send them an actual letter in the mail that requires handwriting and a stamp.  And remember that even those of us who think we can, really can’t live this life alone.  Plus having a drink solo just makes you look sad.  Nobody wants to be that guy. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Generosity

Every time our kids ask us about things we did when we were younger,  Tony and I laugh.  “Did y’all play x-box? Watch YouTube? Get big gifts at Christmas?”  They can barely comprehend life without videos where we are watching other people open toys <insert eye roll>, much less trying to get them to understand a life with a whole lot less stuff.  We have tried to explain to them that we both grew up without a lot of money.  We both had single moms who struggled to make ends meet financially.  We were thankful for the things we did have as they were treasures to us in a time where we had very little.  

Growing up this way has given me a deep gratefulness for the things I have now. A home.  Plenty of food in the fridge.  The ability to go on vacations.  Getting to occasionally enjoy a pedicure.  (And I do mean occasional. I like to see how long I can make that nail polish last.). And I am so glad it did.  But it also created a place in me that is filled with fear.  Fear of not having enough.  Fear of it being taken away.  Fear that one day there won’t be a home, or plenty of food.  

My cousin Caitlin always calls it a poverty mentality.  And that is so accurate.  My mind says something like “I grew up poor, I could one day be poor again, and I need to hold on to everything so tightly so that won’t happen.”  It’s terrible.  It has caused me to be very selfish at times.  Not wanting to give, out of fear I will “run out.”  

Unfortunately, my poverty mentality goes past finances.  It can consume almost every area of my life.  Not wanting to give because I perceive myself as only having enough for me. I have withheld parenting guidance because I feel like I’m just getting by sometimes as a mom. I have withheld marriage advice in seasons where Tony and I have struggled through. I have withheld grace, love, kindness, my time, and my finances.  It’s embarrassing to admit how much this mentality has affected my life.  But there is freedom in truth, right? So here is to flexing my freedom muscles. 

This past weekend I was taking my kids to a trampoline park. I was stuck at a traffic light realizing I was in the wrong lane, when I looked over to see a homeless man outside my window. My car was in the “holiday hangover” phase, filled with things to keep kids entertained as we ran around over the break. My front seat had a bunch of unopened snack packs in it for when we leave a restaurant and 4 minutes later my kids tell me they are hungry. I grabbed a handful of bags, rolled my window down and asked the man if he would like them. He took them and thanked me. Then he said “i have some clothes in a bag that are too small for me. Can I give them to you for this food?” 

I could barely get my words out. My eyes immediately were filled with tears as I said, “thank you, but I don’t need anything.”  My entire world was disrupted by his offer. This man. Begging for food. No place to live. Everything he had packed in one plastic trash bag. He still found something to offer me.  Out of his little, he still offered much.  

As I watched my kids play on the trampolines a few minutes later, I was flooded with memories where I have felt most loved.  When a friend who has a jam packed schedule sets aside time to spend with me. No phones. No rushing.  Generosity.  When someone who is financially struggling offers an open home and cooking a meal for me even though I know that meal was not factored into their budget.  Generosity.  When my husband has had a hard day but comes home and offers kindness and joy.  Generosity.  It is the antidote to my poverty mentality.  

I know so often I feel like I’m not where I “should be” in life.  So I hold back. Scrape by.  Live life with my hands clinched tight.  And maybe I am the only one who does this.  Maybe i am just writing this blog for myself and giving public permission for at least one person to say “hey, snap out of it. You have plenty to offer” when I’m trying to hide in a shell.  But my guess is, you may feel this way too.  Oh, maybe you didn’t grow up like me, so you don’t see it as poverty, but you don’t offer all of you for fear you will be truly seen.  Or you don’t get too close because you don’t want to be hurt.  Or you don’t fully trust because in the past it has been broken.   But living life with a death grip on anything you can lose, is no life at all.   

So I am challenging myself to continue to pursue generosity. To look for opportunities to give even when I don’t feel like it. Especially when i don’t feel like it. Taking the phone call. Serving in kids ministry. Offering a hand.  Opening our home.  When I feel I am crushing life or when I feel like I am stumbling through it.  Even then- I want to live generously. I am truly thankful for how directionally challenged I am somedays.  So I could end up in the wrong lane, at the right time, to receive an abundance of unexpected generosity. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Think Before We Speak

Parenting. Something that will shatter you into a million pieces on any given day. Lately-two million. 

My middle kiddo is a feeler. He is very verbal and his emotional intelligence is high.  When he was really little he would say “I think I’m crying because I am hungry,” or “I feel upset and think I should take a nap.”  Honestly, I barely know that stuff in my mid 30’s.  Just this week I caught a stomach bug that took me out for 3 days.  It wasn’t until I started to feel light headed that I realized I had not had any fluids for several days and was super dehydrated.  So he clearly did not get this from his mother. 

I admire him for how in tune he is with himself.  And at the same time, it undoes me.  I want him to stuff his feelings, pretend he doesn’t know what’s wrong, or at least pretend he is fine. Because that is what seems easier. And that’s what’s comfortable.  But, God is always growing me up- and with Beck he is teaching me lots about emotions and sharing. 

Over the last 6 months, our talks have been hard. Much growing has happened. For those who have never met him, he is in the 3rd percentile for his height.  He was my biggest baby, but just hasn’t grown fast.  My oldest is in the 90th percentile so it accentuates his size even more.  But the thing is- Beck never knew that.  He never saw himself as different from anyone else. But with school starting and other adults thinking he is too young to be in school, things have gotten harder. People just say the dumbest stuff sometimes. 

By the second week of school he was coming home and saying things like “I can’t do that mom because I’m small.”  Or “did you know I am the smallest kid in my class?” And I thought- what the hell?!? Where is this coming from? These words were often said in frustration and through tears.  

It’s gotten harder. Being “small” has started to translate to “not as good.” Just last week we had friends over and we were going to play a game. He had a total melt down because he was worried he was going to lose. We had not even started playing.  But he said he “loses at everything.” Everything in me wanted him to just suck it up.  To just not embarrass me. But at this point in my life I realize being vulnerable in front of people is really the best way to live life. Pretending is way too exhausting. And *spoiler alert* I don’t have my shit together. And my kids are not perfect. And I am not a perfect mom.  So it’s best to just get that out of the way if we are going to be friends anyway. 

So, with Beck looking at me, in front of all the kids running around the house and my friend next to us, we said what is true about him.  “You are good. And kind. And you are not a loser. And we want you to play the game with us.” He calmed down and he played. And he won. And it was fun and ended well. But it’s so flipping hard to hear your kids say this stuff about themselves. Allowing the world to say who you are or what you are capable of. Letting them put limitations on you. I hate it. 

And I realize I am not the only one who experiences this. Last night I was talking with my best friend of over 25 years. We grew up together and our kids are growing up together. She was calling to tell me her daughter was asking her if they “were all black.” My friend never discusses skin color so she didn’t know where that was coming from. Her daughter continued to share “because other people are white.” She was shocked. “Who is saying this in front of you?!?” she thought. My friend asked her daughter if she meant someone like “Mrs. Jessica’s kids,” to which her daughter with no hesitation said “oh no Mama. They are the same as us.” 

Kids that young, they don’t see a difference. We are all the same. But adults- we do. And we have this super bad habit of saying it in front of our kids. Do you think as mothers we don’t know our kids are small? Tall? Over wheight? Struggling with speech? Or what their skin color is? Do you know you may be the 7th person they have overheard that day saying they are too rough? too loud? too sensitive? Do you think a child who looks different from the parents needs to hear someone say AGAIN “oh, are they adopted?”  

Do you know your words are powerful in the ears and hearts and minds of kids listening? Those kids who turn into adults that are insecure and feel they never fit in. 

There are times for discussions. Times to talk about speech delays or height or behavior. But can’t that wait until kids are not listening? Can’t we choose as adults to instead highlight the goodness in each other’s kids? Or at the very least- can we just stop for one moment and think, is this something I need to say in front of them? Am I adding any value by saying this? And if this answer is no, well then, shut your pie hole. 

If you have never held a child who is crying because of words spoken over them that hurt, then count your blessings. Because it sucks. In those moments I want to both throat punch the adult who knows better, and also thank them. Because it leads to conversations where I can tell my son who he is. How height doesn’t limit his abilities or make him scale back his dreams. That he is made perfectly and everyone who knows him, loves him! Exactly how he is. 

I am determined to be a better example to my kids, and my friends kids. To add life and value and build each other up. And I am thankful for those in my life who do that as well. We have amazing teachers and great friends and wonderful family. And I know we can’t shelter our kiddos from the world, but I think we can all do a better job of being shelters for them and for each other. 


So let this year be filled with overflowing kindness for one another.  Words that edify and build up. That our children may overhear all the goodness they bring to this world and how capable they are to achieve great things. 

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.