What Do You Do With Old Newspapers

Have you ever been looking through some stuff around your house and found an old newspaper? Not like “classic old” where it doesn’t matter what was in it, it is from 1923 so it is cool just because it is old.

Just like, a year old, maybe two. Old enough that you have no idea why you have it. Did you keep it for a reason? Does it have something important inside? Or did you forget to throw it away and it was simply forgotten?

You look it over quickly, but obviously you found it because you were looking for something, so you don’t have time to read it cover to cover to see what information of value it might have.

Now you are in a quandry. Do you keep it?

It might be important.

It might have been important.

You might miss it.

Nostalgia…

Is it worth the space it is taking up? But you don’t have time to decide, because life is busy busy. You re shelve the newspaper in case it is important, feeling inside like you ought to toss it out but sure you will regret it.

Now for the real question:

Have you ever felt like you WERE the old newspaper?

Just a Quick “Hello” and Maybe Some Encouragement for Your Friday

This is supposed to be a short blog post. We’ll see how that goes. I’m long winded (and my husband and children let out a resounding “AMEN!”) and tend to get rambling. Feel free to check out whenever your attention span lags. I think mine may already have gone elsewhere.

This is also intended to be an “ice breaker” of sorts. I haven’t blogged in a really long time. Insanely busy summer plus personal stuff clouding my mind has kept me away. But sometimes we need to just pick up where we left off and keep going.

I have been planning, for like the last month, a big, powerful, encouraging blogpost. Yeah, I’m daunted by the task and somewhat fearful of starting. But alas, God will keep at me until I do. This is not that post.

But this does bring me to why I’m here. It’s for you. You.

I’m here with a message for you.

Yes, you. You really aren’t listening, are you….

Here it is…

Are you listening…

Everyone has a mess. And everyone has a message.

You have a mess. You have a message.

I know. Yes, I really do. I hear you. Absolutely. I know. Yes, you can.

Because God didn’t walk you through your mess just for you. Yeah, He totally loves you enough to do that. Walk you through just for you. But He didn’t. He walked you through for Him. And His glory.

And her. Or him. Or them. Because someone else needs your message. Your hope to fuel their hope. Your testimony to help them endure their test.

Now, I am not saying God wants you to write a book, start a blog or video your troubles. Maybe. I’m not God, I don’t know. What I do know is He wants you to listen to Him tell you with whom, when and how to share your message. The time may not be now. It may be. But He wants an open willing heart to share your message when He prompts you to.

Maybe today he wants you to just tell Him that you are willing, when He leads, to share. Maybe you are just terrified to tell Him that, afraid that your mess will suddenly be front page news.

Maybe today He wants you to call the lady from church that you know shares your struggles and invite her to lunch and love on her.

Maybe he wants you to write a blog post that you are terrified will cause your entire church to hate you and instead brings tears of joy, relief and reconciliation.

I know. I do. If you think just because I’m hiding behind a keyboard I’m not a little (or a lot) terrified every time I post something heavy, you don’t know me all that well.

When I wrote this old post, I walked away from my computer after publishing and felt literal fear and anxiety with every comment that awaited me. And they poured in. It was shared and reshared. I couldn’t look. I couldn’t not look. But everyone was kind. And so many people needed it. And I was terrified.

So today, just know, you have a mess and you have a message. God wants us to be willing to share when it is the right time.

But the good news is, everyone else has a mess, too!

(It wasn’t really all that short, after all…)

 

Don’t Count Your Blessings

The last few years it feels like I’ve had an abundant share of crappiness. I tried to think of a nicer way to say it, but it is what it is. Crappiness.

Oh, I have a great life. Charmed I usually think. Married my highschool sweetheart. Seven amazing, healthy and relatively happy kids. Living the dream. Only, despite the outward appearance that my life is a roses and sunshine, it just isn’t. I’ve struggled. A lot. We’ve had a lot of hard times. I’ve blogged some. Some are too deep and too personal even for the internet. ūüėČ

I’ve been counseled, even chastised, to count my blessings. And I’ve tried. Once I get past my loving Savior who seriously died for me, my Knight who would die for me I’m certain, my darling children, and the most amazing friends ever, I still feel… sad. Not because that isn’t enough. Not because it isn’t spectacular.

Because it is still introspective.

I’ve learned that for me, the worst thing is introspection. In me that becomes selfishness, self-centeredness. Because as long as I’m looking at my hurts, my needs and my blessings, I’m still looking at me.

I’ve found the only real cure to my introspection, my self-centeredness is to look to others and look at how I can pour into them, bless them, sometimes just SEE them. Sometimes people just need seen.

It never fails. Every time I turn from my selfish, pity-party heart and look to others, how their days are going, how I can help them, how I can be a blessing in their lives, I feel better.

I am greatly blessed. I try to thank God frequently for my blessings.

But when I’m really hurting, what I need is to look outside myself and focus not on me, but rather on others.

Perhaps, next time you are struggling, think of someone else. Not even in the “Look, it could be worse,” way. Just think of someone who needs a smile. Needs a call. Needs seen. It just might help you, too.

 

 

 

Is Mother’s Day Enough

Mother’s Day is coming up. ¬†And I’m thinking a bit about it. Not much, actually. I’m just in it, you know? In the trenches. I love this little life of mine, but it is pretty much all consuming.

But the media reminds us about Mother’s Day so I start thinking about it. Thinking about the best gift I’ve given myself. A few years ago I found myself emotionally bracing for another Mother’s Day. Oh what a fun day! My little preschoolers at church would get to make a craft. I’d teach of course, to give that momma a much needed break – a thank you for serving and an appreciation that this day is about them! Then after church we would dash up to my momma’s house, grabbing a quick fast food lunch on the way because by the time I can leave church at 1, drive through and get to my mom’s it is 2:30. We’d visit with my mom for a while. Then we’d head from there the 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic, to my husband’s mom’s for a short visit, then scamper the hour-ish drive back home to fall, exhausted, into bed, after sending all the various children of to bed of course.

I was in fact dreading Mother’s Day. Why? Because it really wasn’t about me. I’m a full time mom. I live this gig, of my own choosing, where my life is surrounded by that of these little, and not so little, people depending on me for their very existence. My husband is great. He appreciates all I do, frequently telling me so or stopping to pick me wild flowers that he thinks I’d like. He gladly buys me anything I want, happily gives me gifts, candy and flowers. But Mother’s Day has never been about me and has always been about visiting our moms. And that is very important.

But suddenly, as I faced great apprehension over the exhaustion that Mother’s Day would entail for me, I took a moment to be totally selfish. I decided, and my husband heartily approved, that I would visit our mothers on another day. Since then I have tried, some time the week before Mother’s Day to visit my mom, with just my kids. It is very hectic if my siblings and all the grandchildren try to get together. This way my mom and I can talk without the distraction of so many others. She can see my kids. They can chat with her. We then visit my husband’s mother on a different day. And Mother’s Day I can spend just enjoying the kids and husband that gave me the title I enjoy so heartily at this stage of my life: Mom.

 

 

A Little About Me, and You

I am the adored youngest child of five.  My older siblings spoiled me and played with me and tormented me.  I remember one brother dragging me through the house on a blanket and the other dancing with me in the living room, letting me stand on his feet.

I was considered, from a young age, to be something special.  A special kind of smart. My parents had not attended college, nor had many of their siblings, (each of them were from large families).  I was destined for college from the beginning.

I was blessed by this adoring family that thought I was especially smart.  Then God blessed me with an amazing best friend at the ripe old age of 6 who would also believe I was something special.  A special kind of smart.  Gifted these people said.

All through school I kinda skated, you know? I made good grades.  Most teachers seemed to like me. I was, different. But I was a highly functional different so it was good, right?

I knew there was actually something “wrong” with my brain. ¬†Others seemed to think I was so smart. Gifted. But I knew. There was always something wrong. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t think like, be like, function like normal people. But these other people thought I was, well – smart. Who was I to argue? I sure didn’t want them to find out. No one would like me if they knew.

Then God sent me this amazing boy. He was actually smart. He was terrible in school which I thought was funny because he was just so smart, but try as he might he couldn’t make this school thing make sense. I couldn’t understand half the stuff he understood, but I could do school. He was smart. I was academic. For the first time I found someone who didn’t really think I was smart. I mean he didn’t think I was an idiot, but just normal smart. Not special. And for some reason he still liked me. I decided I had better hang on to that one, he was crazy but he was smitten so I’d take it.

I went to college, got really good grades. Irritated my roommate with my lackadaisical approach to classes. ¬†Graduated with honors and went on about my life. I’ve occasionally wondered what would have happened if I had applied myself…. But I had a great college experience and ended up where I wanted, so good enough I guess.

It wasn’t until adulthood that I learned a few interesting things about my “quirks”. All these things that contributed to my special kinda gifted smart, are actually things seen by most of the world as flaws. It’s true. In me, the way God created me, the family support he put around me, the people he put in my path, all these flaws became a “smart, quirky, gifted” person.

Here’s a list of things that are “wrong” with me.

  1. I’m an introvert – Oh, I know, there is nothing wrong with that. ¬†Yeah, that’s what the world tells us, themselves. But then they say things like “if you just tried harder to be social” or “you just need to put yourself out there more” or “you just need confidence”. No. I just needed to realize that my brain was made to work inside itself. I think a lot. I get distracted by the world around me. That is sometimes a huge blessing. I love people. I’ve been pulled way, way, WAY out of my comfort zone and been blessed by it. But at heart, I work best in my head. That’s actually why I write. My fingers type and process what my brain cannot express any other way. And people make me tired. Even those I love dearly.
  2. I’m ADD – I read test after test for ADD (especially in Adults) and I laugh. I am certain there is someone with a camera in my house and my head. I think and work best when I have an abundance of things going on and a deadline. I thrive on chaos. My brain is like an internet browser with multiple tabs open. In fact I prefer my browser that way… I can (especially in school) balance many, many tasks at once. It is only when I don’t have multiple things going on that I find myself spinning in circles accomplishing nothing. I like having all my stuff out in front of me. In school I liked to carry all my books to each class, in case I needed something to do in class, like the homework from the one before…
  3. I’m a night owl – I know, again the world will promise no judgement, but when I’m still in bed at 9am those early birds sure are quick to call me lazy. ¬†In fact, I just think and work best very late at night.
  4. I’m a procrastinator – If you don’t give me a deadline, I won’t finish. ¬†But I’ll be danged if I miss a hard and fast deadline. Soft deadlines don’t count.
  5. I’m a planner – Flaw you ask? Yup. I’m always thinking and planning and have 2-3 contingency plans. This may not sound like a flaw, but it sure seems to stress most of the people in my life. I’m very flexible, I don’t care to change plans. But if you want to irritate me, agree to my plans, don’t formally acknowledge any changes, but just don’t actually do anything toward said plans. If we agree to meet for dinner at 5, and you are late because life exploded, fine. If you are late because at 5:15 you finally decided to stand up, put on your shoes and leave for the half an hour drive it takes to get there, we will have a problem. I don’t know why. That irritates me.

I’ve spent years learning to deal with all the idiosyncrasies the world wants to call flaws in my personality. In a world of tolerance we are forced to say all of these things are ok, but people don’t actually mean it. It wasn’t until very recently that I realized that it wasn’t in spite of these character traits that I was so good in school, it was because of them. I was “smart, quirky, gifted” because of each of these traits. When I didn’t know they were wrong, I really flourished and did very well. As an adult I learned that they weren’t normal and that niggling fear in the back of my brain that I wasn’t as smart as every one thought was justified. Because, I wasn’t. ¬†Only really I was. Just not the way everyone thought.

Now as a forty year old woman I am finally learning, most days, to accept that I am created, fearfully and wonderfully, by an amazing God who decided that this exact recipe of dysfunction and crazy would work to make me the me he wanted me to be.

Learning to accept your shortcoming, flaws, quirks, characteristics as a part of you, part of the total package, part of what lets your good be good is important. ¬†We always want to see what people do “in spite of” their environment, history, surroundings, whatever. No. ¬†It is what we do “because of”. We are made a whole package. These traits aren’t bad any more than a hammer is bad. They are tools given to us by God to build our lives. We choose how to use them.

I challenge you. What “flaws” do you see in yourself? Now, what good do you see? How do you best market your flaws to produce the good in you? Start looking at your traits as traits, not good or bad. If you are a procrastinator, stop telling yourself you have to set deadlines or you won’t do what needs done. ¬†Think that your personality is such that deadlines motivate you to work. Stop judging yourself and use your traits together to accomplish God’s goals for your life.

And remind me to do the same.

It’s OK!

I was chatting with my dear friend today about parenting.

In our culture today, most people experience parenting as such: You have a couple babies or three, they become toddlers, preschoolers, elementary kids until eventually you find yourself the parent of a house full of teens then eventually adults.

Less often but still pretty common is this parenting scenario: You have a couple babies, they grow through all the little stages. ¬†You have upper elementary “tweens” (I hate that term) and teens then find yourself starting over with one or two more infant/toddler stage children.

My friend Kristy and I have not experieced either of these forms of parenting. ¬†Instead we have experienced all the stages, simultaneously. ¬†Neither of us has really ever had a lengthy period of time without an infant or toddler in the house. We’ve experienced parenting somewhat like a longitudinal study. ¬†While parenting teens, we’ve had school-agers to tend to all while changing diapers and cutting up hot dogs into toddler safe pieces.

I think this experience has given us a, perhaps not unique but unusual perspective on parenting. ¬†I know for me, in a lot of ways it has caused me to be a more laid back momma. I was not laid back with my oldest as a toddler/preschooler. ¬†Now I’m pretty mellow most of the time with my current selection of young children.

Does this make us “better” moms? Heck no. In fact we’d laugh in your face if you suggested it might. ¬†But it does make us… different moms. ¬†We’ve taken ahold of a significant truth that we feel is critical for parents to learn.

The Authority to Parent is Ours

Yes, that’s what I said. ¬†It is my authority, and my husband’s authority, to parent our children. ¬†And it is your authority to parent yours.

I have friends with very different parenting styles than mine. And for that I am grateful. I’ve learned a lot from watching other people parent their children. ¬†This isn’t a statement that to have “authority” over your children you have to be “authoritarian” as people view it, dictating rules and lording over your offspring. ¬†But you need to realize that you alone are responsible for raising these gifts, these children, and presenting them to the world. As such, parents need to be empowered to follow their hearts and raise their children.

Raise their children. Parent their children. Do you see what I’m saying here? This is an active role of teaching and training, knowing it is your right and responsibility to do so. You know your children. You are equipped with either the knowledge or the ability to seek the knowledge to bring these little people to adulthood, mostly unscathed.

We have become a society who believes the lie that some “expert” can tell us exactly the ABCs and 123s of parenting, giving us a secret formula for success. ¬†When we are dealing with an issue and we can’t seem to fix it, we are afraid to listen to our inner hearts (or the voice of God) that tells us it is ok to do what we feel is right, because we have to follow the parenting expert of today.

Do not misunderstand. I believe in asking for advice. I believe in trying different things, suggestions from experts and other mommas and daddies in the field. ¬†I ask friends for advice often. But I see so many moms who I know are trying to follow this “Guidleline for Being the Perfect Parent” and it doesn’t fit them. It doesn’t fit their families. And they feel shame and lack of control because, at the end of the day, it just isn’t working and their child is a mess.

I want to encourage you today, tired momma (or daddy if there are any daddies reading this), you are enough. You are the right parent for that child. He was given to you buy a loving God who knew you needed him, and he needed you. ¬†It is ok. ¬†It is ok to occasionally say “no” to that game he wants to play so you can sit on the couch and eat a candy bar. It is ok to occasionally say “yes” to that walk to the playground, even though you are tired and don’t want to go. It is ok to say “At my house, we just don’t eat donuts because sticky faces give me the creeps.” It is ok.

Some people want you to feel badly for not playing with your kid every second of his life. Others think you should never play with your kid. Some people embrace the “they are only little, dust can wait” philosophy while others believe that this theory is practically heresy.

I embrace the “It’s OK” philosophy. As long as you are actively parenting and not just reacting to every situation, as long as you are making decisions for the long term good of your child and your family, as long as you are loving your kid and loving yourself and loving your spouse, baby – It’s OK!

Be The Mom.

Be The Dad.

Embrace your authority. ¬†Know that it is ok to not let your kid play drums or to let your kid play drums so loudly the neighbors complain. ¬†None of us are getting out of this parenting gig without scrapes, bruises, bumps and tears. But if you are doing your best, you are praying, seeking, trying to raise those little critters to be productive members of society, It’s OK.

*Note – If you are not parenting your kids and are letting them run amok while you live a life somewhat tangential to theirs, that is not, in my humble opinion, ok. ¬†I’m not speaking to those who leave their children to grow up under the care of another so they can go live their lives how they see fit. ¬†Please do not lump “active parenting” of many different philosophies – no matter how hands on or hands off – with not parenting at all. They are not the same and if you feel the need to discuss that, feel free to chat with me, I have an entirely different opinion about not “raising” your children but leaving them to become feral. ¬†This is merely an encouragement to those of us in the daily trenches of active parenting.

 

Childhood Trauma

I was very traumatized in sixth grade choir. ¬†I’ll pause as the stunned laughter subsides…..

Yes. I was in choir. ¬†In sixth grade. ¬†You didn’t actually have to be able to sing. ¬†The elementary school I attended was experimenting with electives and one was choir. I took it. And I was traumatized they day they made me sing. Shocking expectation, I know.

We sang all these great songs. Big Rock Candy Mountain and The Rainbow Connection are the ones I remember most. It was super fun.

But then, at the end of the year we had to “audition” for Jr. High choir. Even if we didn’t want to be in choir (I was doing band, why did I have to audition for choir?). The required audition was off to the side in a private area, sectioned off from the other kids (we met in the gym). But you had to sing with two other people. The teacher would start playing on the piano and you and the other two people would sing.

Me.

And TWO other people.

Not alone, but not enough to hide the sound of my hideous singing. Even then I knew I couldn’t sing. (I don’t know how I knew, I guess someone told me? Or I was too terrified to try?) Truthfully, it would have been worse if it had been just me and the teacher. I was terrified even to sing in front of the music teacher.

I opened my mouth. ¬†I’m not sure if anything but a squawk came out. ¬†It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I cannot even tell you who else was in that little audition with me. But I can still feel the embarrassment I felt. We were sent back to our seats and that was the end of that.

Or was it?

Last night as I sang my sweet, fussy baby a song trying to relax her, I sang one of the three songs that I can actually remember most of the words to, The Rainbow Connection. ¬†As I rocked and sang I thought about how funny it was that I had sung that song to each of my seven children, yet few other songs. ¬†I really don’t know a lot of songs well enough to sing without background music. And I rarely sing to my babies. I pondered how something from 30 years ago could be so implanted in my brain.

That’s when I realized for perhaps the first time the extent of the trauma that one audition had inflicted upon me. I’ve never been able to sing in front of people. Until very recently, if I thought the people near me can hear, including my husband, I couldn’t sing. At all. Not a sound. ¬†I had a very hard time singing to my children as they grew out of babyhood. I’ve been teased and mocked about my lack of singing ability enough (very little, but enough) that I just refuse. Instead of trying to learn, I make a point to tell people, I just can’t sing.

Because fear.

Fear tells me that I’m incapable and I’m not good enough and brings that same feeling rushing over me that I felt that day, 30 years ago in that classroom. Fear blocks my joy.

But God.

God has redeemed much of that fear over the last few year. A generous gift for which I never asked. ¬†I’ve gained the ability to trust and the ability to let go.

I truly think that moment of “audition” was a big part of my public speaking fear, my refusal to do drama in school or church and many other fears that hold me back from living the abundant life God has called me to live. Over the last 6 or so years God has gently, and sometimes not so gently, chipped away at those fears, opening me to a much less fearful, more joyful life. I still don’t sing for other people, but I rarely actually worry whether others can hear me sing in a car or at church. And my poor, much more musically inclined, children have to endure listening to me sing when we turn on my favorite songs at home.

So today I ask you, what childhood trauma are you letting define you? What event, or moment in time are you allowing to steal your joy? If you can’t pinpoint to moment, ask God to show you the root of your fears. ¬†Fear holds you back from what He has called you to do, the life He has given you to live.