Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Be the Be

I have a real struggle with contentment.  Its not that I don’t love my life because I do.  I know I have a stellar family and am so happy with that reality.  

This discontentment comes when I look in the mirror (usually on a figurative level).  I have a hard time loving and embracing myself.  I see the beauty God has created but I also see the human with all her cracks and flaws and its easy to begin to compare to others around me.  

Before I know it I begin to think "if only" I looked like that, had their money, had that job, lived in that neighborhood, had their temperament, had been raised by their parents, and the list continues.  This is such a big deal because much of it happens on a subconscious level.  

I’ve become aware of what I am thinking and it astounds me just how much I have a “wish I had that…” thought. 

The real battle happens in our minds.  I’ve seen so much research on the power of our thoughts and its very surreal to think the real issue isn't what we have or don't have, but is our thoughts! Re-thinking a few things could be just what is needed to bring about the best results.  

Even the Bible speaks to our thoughts:  

I Corinthians 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Those mental roadblocks are supposed to be destroyed so we can stay on mental task.  

As I thought about all this (while driving, by the way), I thought we need to “Be the BE!”  By this I don’t mean be the "b" word; instead I mean, begin to live from where we are, not where we want to be.  We need to get good at being ourselves.  Its very hard to do in a culture that constantly throws comparisons in our face.  

Sometimes it just seems easier to be like everyone else.  I see this person finding success by doing motherhood or business a certain way and my brain just wants to copy their method and be them.  But the world doesn't need that.  I was made with a purpose and by living out me, I make the greatest impact.
Yes, it can be hard because there are things about myself, that crush me.  I’m not talking about my stringy hair or any other superficial quality but areas of character that motherhood has exposed in me and left me embarrassed.  

Its become apparent that I don't always deal well when things don't go as planned and often I can lash out when I feel out of control or when I'm operating in an anxiety induced episode.  The woman that emerges is someone I am less than proud of.  She's been around my whole life, but now I see her emerging in my kids and the horror grows.  

But remember the battle is in the mind.  When I set my focus on that, I can in fact bring her out more.  When I slow it down and center myself and remind myself of all the good qualities I am passing on, the monster I see looks a bit smaller.    

Perfectionism has been at the root many a time; unable to see the whole picture narrowing in on the missteps and the failures unable to look them square in the eye and wanting so badly for them to just go away.  

But no one is perfect, even if the image they present looks it.

There is always something.  Embracing ourselves warts and all is the best way to live.  Not because we can’t change and everyone better just get used to our negative qualities but because accepting reality is really the first step to make changes.  

Why am I sharing all this with the world?  Its not because I need you to feel sorry for me or come tell me I’m great or suggest I see a counselor.  I am sharing this because I am not alone.  Many of you need to also -  

BE the BE!  

What ways are you allowing discontent thoughts and comparing yourself with others?  What ways are you narrowing in on your flaws to the exclusion of your beauty?  How can you embrace yourself, and be the person you were created to be?  It starts with a look into your emotional mirror and a decision to start with you not the you, you wish you were. You were created with purpose as is. Go forth and rock life! 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Maybe We've Got It All Wrong

People are stupid.  There I said it.  We chase after things that don’t really matter and fight for freedoms that damage us.  

I just don’t get it.  

Why is the “life”, the party life?  Why is it best to have the freedom to have sex with anyone?  Why is it best to fight to have an abortion when typically it wrecks our soul and leads us to make other choices that hurt us?  Why is it best to live a life that leads us to lonely places?  Why do we give God such a bad wrap for being too strict when the reality is everything he wants for us is what is best for us?  

Being in a committed loving relationship and sharing our heart in a real way is best for us - not sleeping around till you get an STD or wasting perfectly good humans to protect your right to have sex with anyone at anytime.  Sex isn’t the end all, be all of life - relationships are.  Living in freedom from addiction and knowing our true purpose is the best way to live.  

Its not freedom to drink but its being free to say no when you shouldn’t drink and free to say no to relationships that are toxic.  Its living a life free from fear of facing yourself and your inner demons but instead facing our own issues head on and moving past them.  

Yes, God has rules but he doesn’t lead with those rules.  He leads with love and when we discover who he made us to be and how we can best be like him to the world, we discover the rules are actually the path to freedom.  Each stage in life isn’t something to run from because we want what another stage has, instead its something to embrace because of what it offers us and how it prepares us for what is next.  

Then we know what is really worth fighting for because there are issues in this world worth fighting.  In knowing God we know the enemy that we fight.  We put on spiritual weapons and fight against the root, not a symptom of the problem.   

Have I just oversimplified life?  Maybe.  But when we chase after the right things then we discover so much more than we ever dreamed possible.  Humanity doesn’t need more freedom but accountability to each other so we can live in love.  Our decisions do impact others and its not just about ourselves.  

We need to focus on what matters and have frank conversations (often with people who have completely different world views) on how that can best be accomplished for the benefit of all.   I had a friend recently tell me, as we discussed issues that would have us living in opposition, that we weren’t really that different.  We saw past the labels and discussed the heart of the issues and what we saw was common ground.  That is something we need more of today.  

Do you ever stop and reflect at what is driving your positions and decisions?  Is it fear?  Is it judgement?  Is it anger?  Is it love?  Is it hope?  Is it bravery?  Where have you gone off your path?  Where have you misstepped?  Or maybe you are right on track and someone else needs your direction?  Be in community, be in relationships.  Seek God where you are, not where you will be good enough for him.  

Yes, maybe I have oversimplified because well each of these topics I’ve touched on could have books written on them highlighting all sorts of angles and caveats, but I become saddened when I see people time and time again wreck their world by overcomplicating and selling themselves short or fighting for the very thing that will kill their destiny and their soul.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I Became A Mother 14 Years Before I Had My Son...

I become a mother 14 years before I had my son.  That may sound strange, but my definition of mom has been altered a bit through the life that I have led.  

In the summer of 1997 after graduating from high school, I travelled from Heidelberg, Germany to Springfield, Ohio and discovered, I was pregnant.  I was 18 years old and preparing to leave for college in just a few shorts months.  In contrast to my believe system, I had an abortion.  Despite only being 6 - 8 weeks along, I knew that my baby was a boy named Tyler.  It was a decision I regretted afterwards and had to walk a rough road just to live with that choice.  Tyler is my first child.  He always will be.   

My next child came 5 years later.  This time it wasn’t a baby and wasn’t from my body.  I was working at a group home for troubled teens. I was assigned 3 girls in my time there.  I still remember facing a hard time with one in particular and talking with her mom on the phone.  Her mom was comforting me as I walked a very difficult time with her.  Those girls were all mine and even though they have grown up and are now moms themselves, I will always think of them as my kids.  I was with them everyday through the hard parts of life for a year.  A year that branded me my heart in a way that will make those bonds reach beyond what an average year will do. 

My next children became mine in 2005.  I was 27 years old marrying a man 16 years my senior.  He brought into our lives his two beautiful girls - 14 and 18 at the time.  Even though I was closer in age with them than my husband.  I mothered them day in and day out.  The oldest, who is special needs, at 31 still lives with us.  She calls me mommy and is able to love all in her live.  

My husband and I tried for 5 years to have a baby.  We finally got pregnant and I was over the moon!  But Danielle was drawn to her brother, Tyler, and I miscarried one night at home.  It was a painful night both physically and emotionally.  I still have a photo of the toilet after miscarrying her.  It might sound gross, but its a bit of my goodbye, and closure with my baby girl who I never got to meet.  

In 2011 I had Caleb.  I still remember standing in a Hobby Lobby seeing a yellow cross that read, “For This Child I Prayed,“ and sobbing.  I was so scared he would follow Danielle’s lead, but he didn’t!  Even though I had considered myself a mom for years, this was the first time the world acknowledged me.  My journey led me to Caleb.  I couldn’t love someone more if I tried.  

You see, loving Caleb was easy it just happened inexplicably.  With my other children, especially my step daughters, my love was a choice.  It was a stronger and better choice than my first choice in 1997.  It was a daily choice to love despite the fact that I didn’t get to watch them grow from infancy or have them move in my belly.    That was an amazing love to know and to keep knowing.  

I thought that was the end of my motherhood.  But God surprised me just under three years ago with the news that I was pregnant.  This time with a girl and that girl just turned 2 last week.  Truth: I cried when I found out she was a girl.  I wanted another boy and was scared to be a mom of a girl.  I realized I had some baggage to sort with that fear, but her being a girl was the best thing EVER! 

I know there will be no more babies coming from my body, but if life has taught me something its that my journey of motherhood isn’t close to being over.  I have years with my babies, but I also don’t know what God may bring along my path in the future.  The children I love come in all forms.  I am better for each of my kids listed above and for each of the teenagers that has crossed my path in ministry over the past 15 years.  

The truth is when I look back over life, I too have parents that never birthed me - people that loved me like my own parents did and made a huge impact in my life.  There is some sorrow on my mom journey and I can tell you I would much rather have my two heaven babies on earth, but I am still their mom.  I can’t wait to wrap my arms around them one day.  Until then I continue to look ahead and live for today, remembering the journey and grateful for what I have gleaned along the way.  

When did you become a mom? Or a dad (for all the men reading this)?  Have you ever looked outside the traditional definition and seen the impact others have made on you and you on them along the way?  May you reflect and embrace all those on your path who mothered you and you them!  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

PSA From A Former Wedding Planner

I have noticed some alarming trends in our culture lately with prominent events.  They have been personally bothering me, then yesterday, I got a call from my sister and decided it was time to share my two cents. 

Let me first say, I am not Miss Manners and don't live my life to the book of etiquette, but even with that being said, we are crossing over into a territory that is sad to me.  I spent ten years planning weddings for our church and for friends.  I also have worked as a youth pastor for 14 years and a good chunk of that job is planning events.  I love event planning and its a great fit for my anxiety-prone personality.  The anxiety, while usually a negative, proves helpful when you have to envision every possible scenario ahead of time.  That way, you are prepared for whatever may come. 

So there are really two things I want to share (and trust me there are way more than two issues). 

1.  Don't Abandon Paper!

Our digital world is saving some trees and that is great, but some events warrant the extra step of pen to paper.  If you want to gather friends at your house for a fun get together or even have a kids birthday party, I really don't think its an issue to do a Facebook event, even though if you are inviting older folks or those not as technologically advanced, you may wish to also have a paper invite.  Both is great! 

The more formal the event, the less I think a Facebook event suffices.  For example, if you are getting married, send out invitations!!!!  This is a big deal, and even if you have a small budget, you can print things fairly inexpensively these days.  It doesn't have to be super complicated, ornate or embellished, but tradition of the invitation, is really vital.  Sending someone a note is personal. 
It says you care. 

Before I leave this point, let's discuss the "Thank-you" note.  I admit, I can go overboard with this topic, but if someone takes the time to give you a gift (for any occasion) or make time to celebrate a special event with you, a thank-you note is important.  As I explained to my six-year-old son - if they took the time to give and wrap the gift, you can take the time to thank them for it.  Please for big events, don't send out a pre-printed standard thank-you.  That is almost as bad as not sending one. 

Its like saying,

"I know I am supposed to send this to you, but I don't care enough to take the time to actually do this properly." 

It doesn't have to be long, but tell them you are glad they came to your event, thank them for their card or gift.  Let them know why it means something to you, and sign your name.  DONE!  If you are lucky enough to have people rally around you in life, than you owe them the thanks for being there

Please Note: If you are a thank-you note giver and you miss something here and there, its okay, we aren't perfect and frankly, this blog post isn't addressing you because you write them in the first place. 

2.  RSVP

First, let me say, please RSVP!  Its common courtesy and unless it says "regrets only," please let the person know you got the invite and you either plan to come or don't plan to.  If you have an scheduling issue that won't allow you to know until after the RSVP, please alert the person inviting you to this issue.  Silence may be easier for you, but it is RUDE!!! 

Now, my sister enters the scene.  She called to get my feedback on an event she is hosting and how to handle a specific situation.  Someone had RSVP'ed for more than were invited and she reminded me of my own list of similar experiences.  Take note of who is invited and if you want to bring someone (a date, your kids), first ask if it is okay before giving your RSVP.  Please consider the cost the host is having to pay, the people limit they may have or the venue constraints.  You aren't the one planning so you don't have all the facts.  Please check first before you just make a decision on that front.  Look at the envelope who is invited?  The Family, the couple, you and a date or JUST YOU?  Please note and RSVP accordingly. 

Like I said there is more I could say, but that is all for now.  Please go about your regularly scheduled lives. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Where's My Oscar?

America (and the world) watched the Oscar's this past Sunday and people were celebrated for their talents in the area of film. As I watched, it got me thinking about a few things.  Without comparing or putting down what artists do in Hollywood, because I do see the impact films have in the lives of people, I began to ponder my own life. 

  • I am thirty-eight years old. 
  • I have no retirement,
  • no medical benefits through my job,
  • and make less than $25,000/year after 15 years job experience and a Bachelor's Degree. 

I'm not sharing my stats with you so you will feel sorry for me and take up a collection or GoFundMe page.  I am sharing because in truth,

                                                              I deserve an Oscar. 

Even if we boomerang back to the film industry

    there are more unsung heroes than Oscar-winning victors. 

For every award that is given, there are hundreds, and probably even closer to a thousand movies that don't get any award.  In January 2016 alone, there were a total of 161 movies released.  (I really wanted to count them all for 2016, but January took long enough :)). 

I am not an actress, so I will never get an Oscar.  The point I am making is the life work I do day in and day out is award-winning worthy.  I don't always see the fruit of my labor, but

pouring into the lives of people and more specifically, teenagers, is an important job. 

I love (almost) every minute of it, and definitely wouldn't trade the years I have behind me for anything, but at the end of the day, I will never receive an award at any kind of ceremony, much less, Oscar status. Please hear me when I say, never getting an award is just fine with me!  My friend, Tracy, hit the nail on the head with a recent Facebook post about her job working with kids and teens:

I live in that boat with her.  Every once in awhile, I get a card of thanks or get to hear the impact my contribution made in someone's life and its worth it.  Lives being enriched far outweighs any paycheck or award.   Thankfully, as great as those Oscar's are, they aren't the indicator of human value, because if they were than only a few people would matter and the work they do and I believe EVERY LIFE MATTERS! 

I don't know who is reading this.  Maybe you feel like an unsung hero and if you do please hear me say, "Stay the course!"  The work you do matters (unless you are a terrorist or serial killer, then PLEASE STOP)! Maybe you have a hero in your life, that needs some encouragement from you.  Either way, you have your place in this life and what you do is important even if no one ever communicates that to you.