The Party’s Over & Some Lessons Learned (It’s a Two-fer!)

The Party's Over

The Party’s Over (Photo credit: BrianTuchalskiPhotography)

It’s a sure sign that the party is over and school is back in when by 8:30 a.m. on a Monday morning I have showered; dressed; brushed my teeth; put on make-up, or at least some of it; done two loads of laundry; completed carpool; gone to the grocery store (because I actually know what I am making for dinner); made my bed; unloaded the dishwasher; had two cups of coffee; have had two separate, full-length, adult conversations; and am sitting down to write my SECOND blog post of the day. This won’t post online for a few days, but just know I was thinking about you during my coffee buzz.

As a side note though, I just walked past a mirror and realized that while yes I did actually put on lipstick this morning before going to the grocery store, I didn’t do it well…as in it wasn’t all ‘in the lines’ so to speak. Apparently I either did it in my sleep or without my glasses on. So I apologize to anyone I may have frightened while in the Harris Teeter. I sort of looked like Heath Ledger’s The Joker in The Dark Knight…only I did shower. The other bothersome thing about this lipstick-gone-wrong episode is that at least one of my children saw me that way BEFORE I entered the store. I think I know what we will be talking about over dinner tonight…

So this post is sort of a continuation of what it means to me to have written 70 posts, although now it is officially 71. I was thinking about things I have learned. I no illusions that I am an expert a mere nine months into this blogging journey, these are just things that have blessed me and given me a sense of freedom.

  1. It’s ok not to know exactly what you are doing when you start. It only took me an hour to set up the blog (thank you Word Press!), but it took me another month to learn how to appropriately add links to my posts.  Adding photos took even longer. Yes I could have asked others who know more than I do (and I did some of that), but in the beginning it took all the courage I could muster just to press Publish for each post. So for a while I just focused on getting words down and clicking Publish. And that was enough.  There are still a lot of techie things I would like to learn, so I am taking them one thing at a time.  The most important thing for me is actually the content, even though that may not always be apparent, so that’s where I tend to put my energy.
  2. You don’t have to do it exactly like everyone else. There are many folks out there who willingly share their expertise on how to blog and I enjoy reading their ideas. Sometimes I try on their ideas and if they fit I use them.  If they are just not me then I drop them like a hot potato. If you follow all the how-to’s and formula approaches to blogging (and there are many out there) then your work will look just like theirs. That’s fine if that’s your goal, but I am not sure it’s mine. I realize that certain ‘rules’ apply in terms of achieving social media success, but for me this is more art and less science; it’s more about expression than displaying work product.  I know that’s a little Pollyanna-ish, but that’s where I am.
  3. It’s perfectly ok to try out different writing styles and voices. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you are comfortable with and what you like. I have enjoyed this trying-on process. There’s freedom in knowing every piece doesn’t have to ‘sound’ the same. For instance, I am the same woman who has written about tube tops and Speedos and Bible study and theology and deer in her back yard. I have at times worried it may come off as schizophrenic, but what can I say? I am some amalgamation of Steel Magnolias meets C. S. Lewis meets Stevie Nicks meets Kay Arthur meets Lord of the Rings meets The Middle (Is that the opposite of not being June Cleaver?). It’s bound to come out in my writing.
  4. Every time you sit down to write you don’t have to produce something for public consumption. It’s ok to play with words. It’s ok just to write.  It’s ok to have fun and enjoy writing for its own sake.
  5. Sometimes you just have to let it go. The truth is my ‘need’ to manage your opinion of me makes me want to edit everything to perfection. But my desire for connection on a level deeper than grammar and punctuation makes me click Publish many times before I feel like I am finished. Communicating the message, expressing my heart, and connecting with the reader is a higher goal than someone thinking I am a Grammar & Spelling Ninja. Personally, I think perfection and connection are mutually exclusive. It’s virtually impossible to do both and ever actually get your ideas out there for discussion – at least in the blogging format.
  6. It’s ok to work on more than one thing at a time. Initially I felt like I had to finish everything I started before I started something else. If I set one thing aside to work on a new idea, it felt like adultery. But then I heard someone mention that they have over 200 unfinished posts in their Drafts folder that they periodically pull out, polish and publish.  It was a light bulb moment.  Now I too have a Drafts folder. She is my friend. She holds ideas for me that aren’t quite complete or didn’t develop the way I wanted. And at the right time when the idea starts to gel, I can go back and finish it or totally rework it. I don’t know if I will ever use everything in the Drafts folder, but I like keeping my options open.
  7. It’s ok if people don’t like your work. Again, I am sure others might not struggle with this, but it’s hard when someone calls your baby ugly. But it really is perfectly acceptable for other to disagree with you, or not understand your point or even get angry with you. While I hate conflict and I don’t like being perceived as rude, sometimes we need to be provoked by another persons thoughts or opinions in order to cause us to look at ideas with fresh eyes and a new perspective. If you can express yourself without trying to simply convince people to like your work, it is very possible you can help them see from a different perspective. You can help shape your culture within your sphere of influence. I am sure even now water sport enthusiasts everywhere are rethinking their position on Speedos (major SARCASM)!

I know it’s weird to stop after number seven, but I could probably go on ad nauseam because the truth is a year ago this blog thing was just an idea without a name. It was a hope without an expression. So every single thing I have done has been a lesson learned. And every day that I hop on here and string words together, well, I am just grateful the internet is free and I don’t have to pass any certification exams to join the party.

Happy 70th!

Party Streamers

Party Streamers (Photo credit: imedagoze)

I don’t know why this seems significant to me, but it does. This marks my 70th post in this space since I started blogging back in January of this year.

Seventy seems like a lot in certain contexts. For instance, 70 seems like a lot of birthdays and it really seems like a lot of wedding anniversaries. Seventy miles per hour seems like a high rate of speed. Seventy dollars seems like a lot of money for a pair of shoes or a sweater. Seventy cats or dogs would seem to be a lot of pets and 70 acres seems like a lot of land. And if there were 70 states in the USA, well that’s a lot more than 50.

But in other contexts seventy seems low or small. A 70 on a test seems like a low number. Seventy dollars also seems low for a car payment or better yet a mortgage payment. Seventy cents isn’t even enough to buy a candy bar.  Seventy square feet would seem like a very small amount of space for a house.

I am not sure what 70 means in terms of blog posts, but I will tell you what it means to me. It means that 70 times I sat down to a blank screen and words came. And enough words came to form a thought and communicate a message. Sometimes that message was more clear than others. Sometimes it was like giving birth and sometimes it flowed out like water from a fountain. Sometimes it happened at 3:45 a.m. (like this one) and sometimes it happened at 3:45 p.m. just as everyone walked in the door from school. Sometimes it came one single, solitary word at a time and sometimes it was like a flood and I couldn’t write fast enough. Sometimes I was the only one who “got it” and sometimes people “got” things I didn’t even intend.

I promised myself two things when I started this and I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this, but I have now written enough posts that I officially can’t remember everything I have and have not shared…and this bears repeating anyway:

  1. I promised myself that once I hit Publish on each post I wasn’t going to stress myself out and correct mistakes if I later found (or anyone graciously or even ungraciously pointed out) any spelling or grammar errors. I decided that part of this grace journey is being myself and being transparent, including my mistakes. So as long as a typo didn’t grossly alter the meaning of what I intended to say,  I have let them all stand as published. This is my little way of choosing to no longer live such a highly edited version of life in order to give the illusion of having it all together.  Of course there was the time I accidentally hit Publish and the post was literally only half-way written. I considered that more of an incomplete than a mistake, though.  Three hundred missing words is a little more than a typo!
  2. I also promised myself that I wouldn’t beat myself up over maintaining strict writing deadlines.  My 3D life and the people in it are more important than this space and there are just times when the speed of life crowds out words.  And that’s ok. I’ve done away with internal deadlines for myself. I don’t want to Publish just to hear myself talk (although on occasion it may sound that way). So while I like the rhythm of hitting Publish two or three times a week, it’s ok when that doesn’t happen. I don’t want this to be a formula. I want this to flow out of my life journey, not drive it.

I realize that people who are comfortable in their own skin and embrace the unique way God created them will ask themselves why I needed to promise myself these two things…well because for most of my life I haven’t been comfortable in my own skin and I had no clue about my uniqueness, let alone how to embrace it and live it.  So for this girl, both of these things have been a huge sign of freedom for me.

So here’s to 70! I celebrate all that you are. I am not worried about what you are not and I am not concerned about what you will be. I am grateful for this moment!  And I am grateful for those journeying with me.  To those who have read and endured all 70 posts and the continuing transformation, all I can say is that I am humbled that you would hang in there (I know some of it has been rough).  And to those who have only read one, I am also humbled that you would grace me with your time, and I invite you to join the conversation.

What are you celebrating in this season?  What are you grateful for?

Enjoying the Summer

Y’all, I have so been enjoying this summer.  It’s not so much what we have done, but probably what we haven’t done that has made it by far the most enjoyable summer on record for me.  The only really big thing on our calendar for the last few months was our annual trek to the beach (documented in some of its hilarity here, here, and here).  It’s the first summer that I can remember that I didn’t feel guilty about having down time so I filled it up with worthwhile and productive projects.  Don’t get me wrong, I actually did start off with a Summer Manifesto of sorts that I put in my desk drawer, but instead of allowing myself to be berated by a list of things to accomplish I decided to throw caution to the wind and not worry about it.

So I didn’t get my kitchen painted (hopefully that will be soon because my poor family has been forced to dine with various color samples on the wall for seven months while I agonize over Just The Right shade of whatever); I didn’t get up at 5:00 am every day to write so I could finish a couple of goals I have; I haven’t gone through my closet to pare my wardrobe down; and I didn’t even make up my bed every day (gasp).  I have just tried to go with the flow and enjoy time (a rare and precious commodity with working and driving teens) with my family.  Once again, in the interest of full disclosure, I was informed today at lunch by two of them that I am “always so tense about everything that it’s ridiculous” so I guess my version of going with the flow is different from theirs.  What can I say girls?  My blood sugar was low and you have my most profound and sincere apologies.  🙂

With that said I just wanted to share some interesting and funny quotes that have come my way recently.  I REALLY love a good quote!

“Hell hath no fury like a narcissist told no!” by my good friend and fellow Grace Girl, Holly (shared over lots of laughter and dinner).  I have chewed on this for weeks, because it is so true.  I think we can all relate to at least one time or one person in our lives this applies to.

“Why do I get my best ideas in the shower?” supposedly said by Albert Einstein.  Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way shares Einstein’s words when discussing the difference between our logic-brain activity versus our artist-brain activity.  According to her, showering and other things like cooking, driving, and washing dishes are all more related to our creative brain activity than our logical more linear brain activity.  The reason I love that quote is because this happens to me ALL THE TIME and I thought it was just me.

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...

“The Living God dwells in us, we don’t have to meet Him at a specific address,” said by me.  I actually heard myself say this to a friend as we talked about why sometimes people don’t feel like they are “doing well with the Lord” if they miss church.  Why do we feel like we have to meet God at an address?  Christ IN us is the hope of glory.  The New Testament talks about Christ in us about as much as it talks about us in Christ.  Why?  Because we are in relationship together.  We are ONE, in union with Christ.  As believers we don’t have to go looking for Him somewhere outside of ourselves.  That’s what is so amazing about the New Covenant, it’s internal not external.  Any time we want we can simply start talking with Him because He never leaves us or forsakes us.

I love a good quote, please share some with me.

That’s enough for now.  Let’s just enjoy the last few weeks of summer and embrace every season no matter what it brings.

May the Lord give you eyes to see His daily new mercies, ears to hear the songs of Love He sings over you, and a heart able to receive and accept that Love.

June Cleaver I Am Not

As I’ve gotten to the age where my babies are no longer babies it seems kind of natural to look back over 20+ years of marriage and motherhood and think about the things I know now and wish I had known then.  Unfortunately, most of them are things that only become apparent over time and even if someone had sat me down, drawn me a diagram, given me Scriptures, talked in monosyllabic words and anointed me with oil, it probably still would all have gone right over my head.

Why? Am I just slower than the normal person?  Am I just more stubborn? While it’s probably true that I am slow and stubborn, the real problem was a lack of context.  Facts and information don’t necessarily translate into a better reality if you have no idea how to apply them.

So with that said, this is something that’s evolved in my mind over the last couple of years as the Father has been transforming me through His love.  The idea has finally taken enough shape for me that I can actually share my thoughts.

Hospitality.  Yes, that’s the big revelation.  I know everyone else gets it, but please be patient with me.  This momma has just spent the last week literally looking back over 20+ years through my family photographs and it has stirred many thoughts and emotions in me.

Hospitality.  It’s a word I have often associated with vacuuming, fluffing pillows, baking cookies, spraying air freshener and inviting people over.  For most of my adult life I have reduced hospitality to something you offer to guests, visitors, who briefly enter your home, share some conversation and then go their respective ways.  Being a closet introvert who battled gripping fear, guilt, shame and depression made it impossible to ever achieve my definition of a hospitable person, someone who looks very much like June Cleaver.  And so I’ve judged myself to be inhospitable.

June supervises the boys and their friends, To...

But what’s been rolling around in my little noggin’ as the Lord has helped me embrace the unique way He has created me and wants to express Himself through me, is that hospitality is so much more than the June Cleaver image I have in my mind, and it’s an idea that should begin with our family.

It’s not limited to creating a physical space that welcomes people in, but more about inviting people to come as they are into our lives without any expectation that they be anything other than themselves. We communicate that invitation and that welcoming to others by being ourselves with them.  Instead of wearing masks that hide our struggles or pain or (fill in the blank), when we are ourselves others feel the freedom to be themselves.

Jesus modeled this for us.  He came to save the world and Ephesians tells us that while we were still sinners He died for us.  He didn’t expect us to clean ourselves up before we entered His presence.  Even before the cross while He walked the earth He spent time with tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles without expectation that they be anything but themselves.  It was in the presence of Love, not condemnation that people’s lives were and still are transformed.

Back to motherhood…if I could go back twenty years I would approach motherhood (and marriage) with less expectation and more acceptance and love.  Instead of being constantly on behavior and thought  patrol and modeling the gospel as behavior management, I would invite my children to be themselves and point them to a relationship with the Living God who is Love and wants to be known by them so that they can live loved, not fearful.

I would listen more and lecture less.  I would react less and judge less.  I would require less, expect less and enjoy them more.  I would laugh more, especially at myself.  Instead of trying to control behavior I would tune into their hearts.  I would focus less on controlling outcomes and more on their relationship with God.  Each of them is a unique expression of God in this world, I would rely more on love and less on rules.  Love transforms from the inside out with unlimited possibilities.  Rules conform to a predetermined size and shape with specific definitions of success…they limit possibilities.

Hospitality isn’t necessarily having the perfect home and perfectly behaved kids (what are those anyway?) and an Open 24 Hour sign on your front door.  It’s extending an invitation to the people God brings into your life to be accepted and loved, just like Christ did for us.

I doubt I will ever be one of those women who has lots of gatherings in her home, in fact I view my home as sort of a sanctuary for my family.  However, I would like to be someone who makes others feel welcome, accepted, loved and free to be who God created them to be as we go through our day-to-day lives together, especially my family.

Oh The Possibilities

So earlier this summer when I realized the season was a-changin’ on me and my wardrobe was needing a boost, I headed to the store, taking Sophalopes with me. It had been a particularly traumatic afternoon for me, I had survived my first phone call from a teen that started with, “Mom, everybody’s ok, but I’ve had an accident” and buying cheap stuff that would make me look better (that’s code for not-old-enough-to-have-two-teen-drivers) seemed like the appropriate response.

(I would like to pause and give a shout out to the anonymous teen who had to make that phone call to her Momma. You did GREAT! You were calm and you gave me the most important information FIRST! Thank YOU!)

Now back to me…so I headed to the store with Sophalopes. In case we’ve never met in real life and in case I have not expressed it clearly in this space, I have issues with shopping. My issues are the crowds of people, spending money, parking lots, and looking at all the stuff. I am easily visually overwhelmed. And did I mention the crowds of people???

So when I go into a store I enter with a survival plan which usually involves a specific list or one or two specific ideas in mind. And I always have a quick escape plan. I usually don’t do what I refer to as open-ended shopping unless I am accompanied by a professional who knows how to help me when at some point panic ensues.

Well, there are a few open-ended shoppers in my family. People who look at shopping as an opportunity. People who enjoy picking up everything in the store (several times), even things not in their size, color palette or price range. People who not only like to shop, but are rather visionary in their pursuit of it. Sophalopes is one of those family members. She is also the one I wrote about here who kept telling me the Apple Store would give her a new iPod. And in fact they did.

So as we entered the store I picked up three or four things that fit my idea criteria – dresses, in my size, in a very specific color palette, under $25. It took all of 10 minutes and I was ready to head to the dressing room. I looked for Soph and found her four rows over in dresses four times her size. She wanted to check every dress on every rack just in case some gem had been accidentally hung in the wrong place.

Forty-five minutes later I finally chased her into the dressing room begging her to, “make it quick.” I was at that point thirty minutes over my shopping limit and wishing I had just opened a bag of Oreos instead of heading to the store. Of course it only took me five minutes in the dressing room and I had picked out one thing and eliminated everything else.

At that point I heard her call out to me across the dressing room, “Mom, I think you should try on this yellow, tube top dress. And this green block one.” I burst out laughing right there in the dressing room. There were just so many things wrong with both those sentences that I didn’t know where to start. I believe that tube tops in any shape or color belong in the same category as Speedos and you know how I feel about those (see #1 on this post).  But Persistence is Soph’s middle name. Once she has an idea NOTHING is going to deter her. I admire that. I am easily deterred, especially if I perceive something is too hard, too expensive or might involve me losing sleep.

Needless to say, twenty minutes later I had tried on about ten more dresses of various sizes, shapes and colors and according to Soph they all looked great.

I would love to report that they were all a success, especially the tube top dress, but none of them made the final purchase cut. However, I tried. And I got to spend time with my visionary daughter looking at the world of fashion through her eyes with a renewed appreciation for how some of us go through life seeing all the possibilities.

God put those possibility-seeing-visionaries in my life and yours because sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes we view life only through our limitations – our bank account, our mistakes, our struggles, our specific mind sets, our color palettes – instead of through an infinite God with Whom all things are possible.

I am not saying the yellow tube top dress is always a good idea, but sometimes you at least have to be willing to try it on.  Thank you to all the visionary people in my life, I love you!

And Still More Beach-iness

In my last post I shared about how much fun being at the beach with my teenagers was and how we actually enjoyed the beach itself.  During one of my people watching breaks in my week-long Sit Still and Do Nothing But Read-A-Thon, I spotted a little girl, probably less than a year old because she could sit up but not walk, with her parents about ten feet away.  She was the inspiration for my thoughts on vacationing with little ones versus teenagers.  That little one and her parents also inspired this post.

I first spotted Little One (I don’t know her name and I don’t want to keep calling her “Her”) on the second day of my world record mission.  Little One’s Mom brought her down to the edge of the water where her Dad was hanging out.  After hugs and kisses Mom sat her down in the sand right where the last vestiges of waves would roll onto the sand.  As the thin layers of water would gently kiss the sand as far as they could, Little One got splashed.

What really caught my attention was that when Mom sat her down on the sand, before the first wave rolled in and nothing had happened yet, Little One threw up her arms, turned her face upward and laughed with expectancy.  It was like she was saying to God, “Go ahead and WOW me!  I can’t wait!”

For the next fifteen minutes I watched her and every single time a wave rolled in, no matter how rough or gentle, she had the exact same reaction – she threw up her arms, turned her face upward and laughed with expectancy, as if to say, “Do it again!”

Obviously as a mom myself I realize I probably witnessed her celebration of God’s creation immediately following a nap, a diaper change and a snack (in other words, her little universe was in order during those fifteen minutes), so I don’t want to take this too far. However, the tide was starting to come in, so some times the waves would gently tickle her toes and sometimes they would flat-out knock her over.  She experienced everything from a refreshing splash to sand in her mouth and salt in her eyes, but EVERY single time she righted herself (with Mom and Dad’s help), celebrated with a round of applause and invited another one.

The other mesmerizing thing about Little One’s party was that everyone around her was totally caught up in her celebration.  It was captivating and contagious.  For a brief second it made me want to get up from my chair and join her, but I was having a celebration of my own.

We are God’s children, what if we lived with that kind of expectancy?  What if we celebrated God’s goodness and love even when we get knocked down, have sand in our diaper and salt in our eyes?

God is good no matter what our circumstances.  He is good all the time.  He is love all the time.

What if instead of looking for our circumstances to be perfect, we looked for the perfect God in all of our circumstances?  What if we expected Him to reveal His love all the time?

What if instead of gritting our teeth and resigning ourselves to just getting through the next crashing wave, we threw up our hands in praise of the God Who is with us in ALL things, Who works all things together for the good of His children?

How would those around us be affected if we chose to live in celebration instead of defeat or resignation?  Would light actually dispel darkness?

In the interest of full disclosure, I did see Little One in less impressive moments that week, so she was in fact a real baby, human just like the rest of us.  But I appreciate the invitation I received to her beach party and am grateful to God for glimpses of pure, unadulterated joy and His invitation to enjoy not just a few moments, but an abundant life of joy.

Thank You Father that You invite us all to celebrate You and the abundant life Jesus offers.  In Christ, we reign in our best circumstances and our worst, when we live in expectancy of Your goodness and Your love.

More Beach-y Thoughts

Myrtle Beach in South Carolina

Myrtle Beach in South Carolina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I was on vacation and on an obvious attempt to break the World Record for sitting still and reading the most days/hours/minutes in a row, I did periodically take a break for a few minutes of people watching.  Those few moments were when I was struck by the profound observations in my last post.

I mentioned how much more fun it is to take teenagers to the beach last time too, but I didn’t launch into any specific detail, so please allow me to elaborate a little (and do not fear, all proper permissions have been obtained and the names have been carefully and cleverly disguised to protect the innocent and unsuspecting members of my family).

On my very first outing to the beach with a child, my oldest, Liv Loo, was somewhere between 18 months and three years old (I NEVER thought I would be one of those Moms who couldn’t remember when stuff happened with her kids, but alas, age plays tricks on us and I was never one for scrapbooking to preserve these memories) and I was thrilled to take her to one of my favorite places on earth – Myrtle Beach, SC.  I have a few memories of going to the beach as a child, but I don’t remember going very often, so my memories of the beach are almost mythical.  In fact, some of my memories may actually be “mythical” since my memory ain’t what it used to be.

Anyway, we arrived late in the afternoon and I got her out of the van or car (another gap in my memory) and took her straight down to the beach.  I do remember that I was holding her in my arms and I carried her down to the beach.  She was very fast as a child and I was always scared to death I would blink and she’d be gone, so I was holding her tight.  I stood there at the edge of the ocean watching the waves kiss the sand and thinking what a magical moment to share with my daughter, to introduce her to the beauty of the beach.

Then she started to squirm in my arms, the universal sign for, “Put me down now!”  I was happy to oblige thinking she couldn’t wait to touch the water.  As soon as her little sandaled feet touched the sand, she threw her chubby little hands over ears and ran screaming up the beach towards the hotel.  We spent most of that trip at the pool or shopping.  I sniffed back my tears of disappointment.

Fast forward a few years when daughter number two came along, Madelou.  Brave soul that I am, I had high hopes that she would love the beach as much as I do.  So we packed all our stuff up for a comfortable morning on the beach (chairs, blankets, towels, sunscreen, cooler with ice and drinks, snacks, toys, diapers, etc.).  It took four adults 30 minutes to get two toddlers and all that stuff from our beach front hotel to the ocean.  We got down there, unpacked all of our stuff, opened a cold coke and sat down to enjoy the day.

Five minutes later Madelou fell down in the sand, got up and came running towards me screaming with her sand-covered hands in the air as if to say, “Get it off, get it off NOW!”.  The way she was hollerin’ you would have thought she had stuck her hands in acid.  We gave her some time to calm down and get over it.  So 30 seconds later we started packing up and moving towards the pool…again.

I can’t remember how our third daughter, Sophalopes (she said it was ok to use her nick name because no one she knows reads blogs), reacted to her first trip to the beach, but by then my dreams of spending days on the beach with my girls had gone totally dormant.  No point in forcing the issue, we were pool bound for many years.

Until this year!  My dream was resurrected.  I got long periods of uninterrupted time with my girls ON THE BEACH and it was awesome.

Sometimes individual moments of life don’t feel very abundant.  Often a lot of time has to pass before you can see the trajectory of the story, get a sense of the progression and realize you feel like putting on the tiara because in fact you are reigning in life and didn’t even know it.

Thanks girls, your Momma had a blast!