Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Bad Ideas Have Mass Appeal

Well, tomorrow is my last day in my 20s. So many lessons learned so far in life. I have certainly learned that bad ideas can get really popular. Stupid trends have mass appeal. I wrote an entry last spring noting some of these stupid trends I participated in. Enjoy! 

Homecoming Mums. A very stupid trend in the south...

We were riding in the car home from IKEA and I thought about a really stupid trend from jr high...which got me wondering...What are the dumbest trends I've taken part in. Here they are. Don't judge me.

1. Pillsbury Dough Boy Shirts. Who came up with this??? Great for Pillsbury, bad for everyone one else. I honestly don't know why this had such mass appeal, but I had one. I wore it often with my wide leg pants. It's such a wonder I didn't have a boyfriend.

2. Long chains hanging from jean pockets. Okay, I didn't personally have this, but I dated several guys who sported this look. Which means I was attracted to this trend, and that is far worse. Point? Whats the point? Maybe they were supposed to look tough, but I doubt James Dean would have worn one.

3. Beanie Babies. Why did we believe that these were going to be super valuable and we should all collect them? I didn't exactly collect them, but I did get some as gifts. I kept them because they were supposed to be worth millions by 2025 or something. Obviously, that didn't quite pan out.

4. "You Go Girl". I think that I may have said this phrase a few times in 2001. A decision I deeply regret. Thankfully, this phrase is no longer in use with the exception of a few middle-aged white women.

5. Spiral Perms. In elementary school, my parents had a brief lapse in judgement. This included letting me get a perm. A spiral perm. Permanent spirals are never good...its very similar to vertigo. Which, is what you would get if you saw pictures of me in first grade.

6. The Macarena. Apart from the 'Bunny Hop' this is the dumbest dance. I proudly danced the macarena. I think it is because it is one of the only dances I could do. Still, this whole macarena thing should never have happened.

7. Rope Sandals. Yes, it is what you think. Sandals made out of rope. Perhaps you don't remember this trend. I'm not sure if it was a wide spread thing, but at Midway High School or Highland Baptist Youth was. I had them & I looked like a hippie...which isn't my best look. And they smelled.

8. Brick colored lipstick. I don't know why all lipstick in the late 90s was the color of a faded brick, but it was. Including mine. The cast of 'Friends' pulled it off...but no one else. Actually they didn't either, but their haircuts carried them through.

9. Uggs with all day gym wear. The only person who need this outfit is an aerobic eskimo. I did this a few times in college...hey, I was in a sorority. What do you expect?

10. AOL Chatrooms. Ha! Yes, I did on occasion visit chat rooms. Thankfully Facebook came along and put an end to these. I hope.

Okay, those are my top ten. Feel free to write yours in the comments.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: There Are Some Things Only Art Can Say

If you are just now visiting this blog, I am turning 30 on Friday. I have spent the past month writing lessons that I have learned in my 20s. Today's lesson...There Are Some Things Only Art Can Say
Sophie painting in a church service at Mosaic in Seattle.

I wish this was my idea. I wish that this was my title even. But I stole it. Jady preached a sermon several years ago with this title. As I sat in my seat listening I was stunned at the truth in what he was saying. 

There are some things that only art can say. It's not because artists are reclusive and lack social skills, so they are forced to draw out what they feel like a twisted game of Pictionary. Some realms of communication and expression that cannot be translated into any other median are left to be expressed by art alone. Some aspect of God that is delivered through our senses. Through vibrant color, a snapshot of a photo. A chorus that captures the inmost places of your heart. The poems that draw out your imagination & the smells that are produced as food is cooked with skill. 

Here are some photographs that say a lot. I'll tell you what they stir in me.

I can't take my eyes off this photo. Something about humanity. The strength of love's tender resilience. It speaks to the soul of beauty. It makes me feel secure.

An image of creation. The unexpected colors, and the blur
of the fog...
A firey peace fills my heart when I see it.

The childlike places in my heart smile. I am reminded of the wonder of life. The imagination spins and I begin to dream. What can God do next. What lies beyond the expected?

Movement. The physical expression of an internal pulse.
Oh! To feel something so deeply that my body's response is
movement. Action.

My husband is a very smart man. One of the smartest I know. He has severe dyslexia & school was always a challenge growing up. He was told that he was stupid. He was openly made fun of by his 5th grade science teacher. The school counselors told him he should just go to a trade school instead of finishing high school. When he told them he wanted to go to a four year college, they smirked. Told him that he couldn't do it. So much pain, fear, frustration. He had numerous conversations telling people that he was bigger than his dyslexia. One day he was having a particularly hard time with fractions. He went to bed that night feeling the heavy weight of defeat.

Knock, knock. It was his mom.  "Get out of bed Jady. Come to the kitchen table." She had written the math problems that he had been trying to solve on a large poster board. She gave it to him along with some paint. "Paint over it."And he did.

The harassing and accusing math problems were covered with swirls of color. Strokes of creativity took their place. Every ridiculing and doubtful conversation represented on the paper was overcome with beauty. He went to bed that night feeling free. He had said something that night. He had said that he was an overcomer.

Art brings beauty. Art brings comfort, hope, joy, reflection. A perspective of wonder. A dynamic tale told through our senses. Art says something of God to our hearts. We are all artists. Music, writing, dance, culinary, crafting, drawing, paint, many forms.

We are all artists with stories to tell. Get out your pens, paint, guitar, ballet shoes...and say something. Say it loudly from the deepest places within you. Be moved. There are some things that only art can say.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Conquer Yourself, Then Conquer The World

I only have 4 more days in my 20s! Today's lesson: Conquer Yourself, Then Conquer The World.
A little conqueror.

I have been known to be  bit zealous from time to time. Charging ahead with passion in my heart. So many things to conquer! Nations to see, people to tell about Jesus, injustices of all kinds waiting to be righted...So many things to do! 

In fact, I was so preoccupied with the things to do & the places to impact that I didn't have much time to tend to myself. Who cares if there are dishes in my sink? Or if my checkbook doesn't balance the way it should? So what if I gossip sometimes? There are bigger fish to fry! 

I have been around long enough to see great people with great passion be outgrown by their dreams. They were a mess inside. When the wine came, there wasn't an adequate wineskin to hold it. They were so busy chasing their big moment, that when it came - they weren't ready. 

They were stuck in small thinking. They didn't know how to control their emotions & were unstable. They hadn't denied themselves their 'wants' and were stuck in debt. People who didn't take purity  seriously? Their cutting corners eventually landed them in sexual addictions. Big ditches.

For me, I noticed at about age 26 that I had a tendency to be lazy. I was ambitious in heart, but lazy in action. If I didn't think it was super meaningful then I didn't do it. If it wasn't fun, then I didn't do it. The problem with that? Do you know what happens when you don't value doing the small things well? Companies go bankrupt. Marriages break up. Machines get glitches & buildings crumble. If you don't value the small things, then people stop being blessed by your ministry. If I am lazy in the little things, I sabotage the big things. 

Self-discipline matters. I'm not talking about all your ducks being in a row. We will all be messy until we get to heaven. I am talking about pursuing growth. Walking in accountability. Changing when God prompts you. The dreams God has put in our hearts are worth it. The world doesn't need more people with big dreams. It needs people who prepare themselves to do what it takes to see the mission accomplished. If you can't handle your urge to buy shoes when you don't have the money, what makes you think you will have the strength to fight human trafficking? 

I don't want to fold laundry or do dishes. But the big things in my heart require a foundation of small things. I have to value them. I have to do them well. I can't cut corners and have sustainable growth. Get your heart under control. Get your messy places cleaned up. Let people in to help keep you accountable. Create a solid internal structure that can support your visionary hopes. Conquer Yourself, Then Conquer The World. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Divorced Men Need Widows & We All Need Baptist Preachers

Setting up for church...we need each other.

I am sure that you are curious about this title. This was a realization that I came to years ago, but I came up with this title today in church. Let me take you into what I saw this morning...

I was sitting on the front row as I always do. Behind me there were three older women. Two African American women in their 60s and a much older white lady - probably in her late 80s. They sit together every week. This fact alone lights my spirit up. Growing up they wouldn't have been in the same church much less been able to be friends. What a beautiful thing progress is. 

Fast forward to the offering. At this point the band is playing, but everyone is sitting while the ushers pass the offering baskets. While we are all sitting down, I notice a man who sits against the wall in the corner at the front. He is a middle aged man who is divorced. I guess he didn't have anyone to sit with so he just sat against the wall where he had been worshiping. I noticed him as I was handing the offering basket to the person next to me. The old lady behind me saw him to. To my shock, she stood up on her wobbly feet. With her beautifully hunched back she carried herself across the front of the church. She had this man in her sights. She had him in her heart. With what appeared to be great pain, she bent down to him. I don't know what she said, but tears welled in his eyes and a grateful and somewhat embarrassed smile touched his face.

Together they walked back to her row. The band was finishing up and he took a seat on the row with this older lady & her two friends. They welcomed him with big smiles and warm gestures. Squished in a space that normally accommodates 3 people, this new family of 4 settled in. 

I turned around because this mans tears and the ladies kind faces made me start to tear up. As I wiped my face I noticed the shoes of the man next to me. Shiny loafers with khaki socks that matched his Dockers. They belonged to the Baptist missionary who was the guest speaker this morning. His message was powerful & I listened with eager ears the whole time. There was a tender smile on my face as I listened to the four voices behind me "Amen" and " Uh Huh" the preacher. 

How beautiful. This building full of people who don't belong together. Races that have historical division, socio-economic gaps, married, singled, denominational differences. All crowded into our rows, but making space for each other. Making space for our differences. For our backgrounds and preferences. How beautiful is the Church. 

We all need each other. That middle aged divorced men needed an elderly widow to take his hand and walk him to a place where he belonged. On a row with her two black friends. I needed a clean cut Baptist to stir me for the Word of God in a fresh way. We need each other. 

The Church needs our differences. We find so many things to argue about.  We all think we are right and fight to prove it. We write articles about whether Jesus would have been a Democrat or a Republican. If it is or isn't the end times. Can we drink alcohol and follow Jesus? Exactly what is the role of women & husbands or many reasons we criticize each other.

It's ridiculous. I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't have been a Democrat or Republican. Perhaps He would have been in support of a theocracy, but my money is on Him just being a king. We come up with reasons why we don't need each other. We disqualify one another based on our arrogance. 

The beauty of the Church is that we can all belong to it. The power of the cross is that we all need it. The joy of heaven is that it is all of our home. 

I love the Church. I love the diversity of opinion and strengths. To do what God is calling us to do in this generation we need each other. We need the old ladies welcoming the lonely. We need people like me wearing my Urban Outfitters clothing to listen to a Baptist pastor & soak up his wisdom. We need humility and honor in place of judgement and pride. We need Jesus at the center. We need each other.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Three Solid Opinions

Tonight I am sharing with you three opinions I have formed in my 20s. Don't hate me if you disagree. I'm right. I'm sure of it. 

1. Seattle Is God's Favorite City

Okay, I know God doesn't have a favorite city. BUT if He did play favorites...I'm pretty sure Seattle would be it. I could write for 10 million years about how much I love Seattle.The water, the mountains that surround the city & a bustling metropolitan center. Hundreds of local restaurants, cozy coffee houses and fashionable boutiques on every corner. If you haven't been you MUST go. Stop reading my blog, go to expedia & plan a trip. You won't regret it. Make sure you visit Mosaic Community Church when you are there.

2. Dogs Are Better Than Cats

Here is my dog Baxter. He sits by the window and watches us come & go. I have had two cats in my life and neither of them did this. I only liked one of the cats & that is because it acted more like a dog. I don't want to hate on cats, but ...well...dogs are better. I can list the reasons why, but then I would get hate mail in my comments section. So, I am going to leave it at this. 

3. Make Time For Play

Remember when you were a kid & your friend comes over to the door and asks, " Can Elizabeth come out and play?". Well, you probably don't remember it quite that way since your name is most likely not Elizabeth. But you know what I mean. We made time to play. To be silly. And we asked our friends to come and do it with us. Adults need it. 

My friend Erika invited me to play last week. She invited me to come with her and try on glasses. There we are in the pic above. We laughed really hard that day. I do need to sit in a coffee shop & have a heart to heart with my friends, but I also need to play. To be silly & ridiculous. To laugh at inside jokes and play pranks on my other friends. Grown ups need to go outside and play too. Stop being so serious. 

These are three random opinions, but  I did solidify them in my 20s so they qualify. Happy Saturday night! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: My Words Are A Fire Hazard & Can Do CPR

Only one week left before I turn 30! Today's Lesson From My 20s: My Words Are A Fire Hazard & Can Do CPR. ***One small disclaimer. I have taken NyQuil for a cold so ignore typos please!***

Here I am saying "I do." Some of the most powerful words I ever said.

A few years ago I preached a sermon from James 3. I taught about the tongue and it's ability to spark a fire. Honestly, it was a pretty good message I delivered. Too bad I didn't take better notes for myself. I have learned the hard way that life & death is in my tongue.

We all know how awful it is when we say something intentionally derogatory. When we criticize and judge others with our words. Perhaps even worse is when we do it on accident. So many times I have spoken without thinking and created a whole mess. Shared something that was private information & exposed someone. Once I replied to an 'annoymous' comment on my blog whose words were less than supportive. I should have just kept silent and carried on instead of responding. My response wasn't harsh but it would have been better not to defend myself. Turns out it was an old friend of mine from growing up. My hasty reply hurt our friendship. I burned a bridge. 

I do love it when my words build up. I wish I was better at this. Giving honor and encouragement both in front of people and behind their backs. What a blessing to find that my words helped someone and gave them some wind in their sails. It is something so simple and yet so difficult.

The effects of words on the listener seem obvious. Clearly they will make someone feel small & insecure or edified and confident. But I have learned a good deal about how my own words effect me. When I build myself up by my own bragging I get deeply insecure. I am afraid of someone realizing that I am no all I say I am. 

If I minimize the gifting of another with a well placed criticism or doubt-casting question I steal someone's honor. I'm not sure if you have ever stolen something, but it just sits in your gut. I feel horrible about what I have done. I not only demeaned another person directly, but I muddied up their reputation. 
I carry around the weight of my own words.

The same is true when I say things that are life giving. I feel the presence of God. When I honor another person and build them up in public then I am also giving honor to God. That feels so good. It feels freeing, light and hopeful. 

I have learned that my words not cause both fire & life in others, but they cause fire & life in me as well. I carry the weight of my own words. What I carry is either accusation, doubt and shame or honor, hope and joy. It is up to me. It is up to wether I am willing to control this tongue of mine. 

Keep an eye on sarcasm & witty distain. Let encouragement and words that offer help flow. It may not seem like it, but your words are a fire hazard & they can do CPR.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: So Many Thanks

I am thankful for so many things today. Most of all, I am thankful my God is "I AM".

Happy Thanksgiving! Like many of you I spent the morning counting all my blessings. It seems a bit cliche, but it is amazing what it does for my soul. I am thankful for my husband, my kids, sweet friends who love me near & far, my family of origin who love me no matter what. I am thankful for my house, that I am healthy, and have access to plenty of food & clean water. I am thankful for things big and small. 

But what I really focused on this morning was how thankful I am for God. Most simply, I am thankful that He loves me. He has every reason not to. Yet He chooses to look at me and see destiny inside my frail bones. I am grateful that no matter what is going on around me, my God is there. 

I read this verse over & over again today. Reminded again of the power of His love for me. It is the biggest blessing of my life.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, 
nor angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
- Romans 8:38-39

I pray that you each had a blessed Thanksgiving today. I pray that you were surrounded by people who love you. Most importantly, I pray that you know the love of a God who is near. Who never gives up on you & will never let you go. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Marry The Right Person

Okay, this is perhaps one of my favorite lessons!

How cute is my husband?

I was 21 when I got married. Looking back that seems so young, but I was in love. It was the best decision I ever made. 

Love has been the topic of conversation for centuries. Literature, paintings, traditions are full of the pursuit of love. I'm sure it has always seemed like a muddled idea, but in our generation 'love' is incredibly confusing. 

We see shows where people fall in 'love' within a matter of weeks while elaborate dates are set up for them. Movies are portraying the incredibly romantic journey of some fictitious couple. Social media sites allow us to update our status regarding our relationships. It's all so easy. Falling in love seems to be almost pre-scripted.

We are all so good at falling in love. I'm pretty sure there is even a Pandora station for it. Our problem these days seems to be staying in love. Life is hard. Relationships are hard. It takes a lot of work to make something work. Twitter has taught us how to have conversations in 140 characters or less. Intimacy doesn't happen in 140 characters. 

I love being married to Jady. Here are a few reasons why he is the perfect man for me:
  • He loves Jesus more than anything else.
  • He loves me regardless of all my shortcomings & he doesn't expect me to be perfect.
  • The man loves fashion & wants to go shopping with me. 
  • I am dumbfounded by his creativity sometimes. I don't know anyone else who is as creative as he is.
  • The man could lead an army. Really. He can rally people like no body's business. 
  • He wants me to have my own dreams & helps me make them happen.
  • I like to dream big & run hard. He dreams bigger & runs harder. I love it.
Honestly, this post could go on for pages. In my 20s I have learned that love isn't for cowards. Marriage doesn't solve all my problems. Life has ups & downs. I want Jady next to me for all of them. I married the right man.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Flip Flops Aren't Shoes & Other Fashion Advice

My series continues. Ten more days until I turn 30! Today's lesson from my 20s : Flip Flops Aren't Shoes & Other Fashion Facts.

With some friends on a trip to the Middle East. These clothes do not fit us.

I started off my twenties wearing flip flops, jeans & t-shirts. Throw in the occasional sweatpants tucked into a pair of Uggs. Yikes.My friend Kendall & I once made a list of clothes we would never wear again. The top of the list?  Goucho pants. 

Whose idea were those? They flattered no one. Since that first photo was taken I have learned a few things about clothes. The main difference being that clothes & pajamas are different. Unless you have the flu and need to run to Walgreens for NyQuil then you have no reason to leave the house in your pajamas.

It doesn't take much time to get into a pair of jeans and a cute shirt. In fact, it takes the same amount of time that it takes you to put on your yoga pants & hoodie. Speaking of jeans. It is so worth it to invest in a pair that fit you well. I am a skinny jean kind of girl, but maybe you love your bootcuts or your boyfriend fit. I don't care what style you like, just please please please take the time to find a pair that look great on you.

If the pockets are in the wrong place your behind looks fat. If they are too short then you will look wider.  If they sit too low then you create a muffin-top. Just because they button doesn't mean you should wear them. 

Go to a store and have someone help you. Not just anyone. Someone who has good style. If you don't like the way the sales person is dressed find another one who looks how you want to look. I started slowly filling my closet with pieces that were flattering and easy to mix & match. I wake up and put on a top & bottom without much thought. 

I also used to think that flip flops went with every outfit. They don't. Unlike a high ponytail they don't go from day-to-night. They aren't shoes. I encourage you. Try to wear actual shoes from time to time. The kind with a heal and a toe. It feels good plus you look way more put together. 
Guys take note. These are great shoes.

Far too many people dress like they are a 16 year old on a camping trip. What happened to looking like adults? Comfortable doesn't mean casual. Look nice. It's not that hard. I have two kids and about 3 minutes to get myself dressed on an average morning. Grab the blouse instead of the old college sweatshirt. Unless you are actually going camping.

Okay. That was a bit of a ramble. Buy clothes that fit well. Set your Rainbow sandals aside & help me bring back the laces.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Passion Can Push You Past Your Excuses

In my twenties I have found that I am full of excuses. Some of them are silly and others of them are legitimate reasons why I shouldn't be able to do something. I'm sure you have your own, but I will let you in on a few of my classic 'go-to' excuses.

  • I can't afford it
  • Someone else would be better for it. 
  • I don't have the time.  
  • I have kids. 
  • No one asked me to do it.
  • It may not work.
I really could go on and on. I shouldn't lead because people won't follow me. Or I dont' know exactly where God is leading me next & I don't want to self-lead. So I won't move.

I sit. I wait. Waiting for more money, more time, more resources, no family responsibilities, a fool-proof plan, and some kind of guarantee. My excuses aren't ridiculous. Take adoption for example. We are currently adopting 2 kids from Uganda. 

We are living lean on what we currently make without adding in the two new kids. I know that I am not a perfect parent. I don't have tons of time. I currently have 2 kids, so I don't NEED to adopt. Uganda didn't call and ask me to nor did God write with fire on a wall during my quiet time. It may be really hard. It may not work the way I imagine.

BUT. I trust that God will provide more as our family grows bigger. God will shape me & I will grow in motherhood. I can make time. I can quit Pinterest, and re-organize my life. I will put good things down to make room for more important ones. I trust that I heard God even though it was a still & small voice. When it gets hard, God will give me the strength I need.

We all have tons of reasons why we shouldn't do what God asks us to. Or what we dream about. Passion pushes us past our excuses. I am passionate that kids don't grow up hungry, lonely and abandoned. So passionate that I will look at every reason 'not to' and walk past it. 

Passion does that. We don't need to work on ridding our world of excuses, because there will always be a new one. We need to work on growing and increasing our passion. If you really burn for something, you will make a way for it. God makes up for our lack. In our weakness He is strong. 

Re-charge your passion. Read about the issues God has put in your heart. Pray about them. Learn more. Fix your eyes on who Jesus is. Talk to Him. Remember what puts fire in your bones. Remember the moments & conversations that have shaped you. Do something. Act. 

We have to quit waiting for all our ducks to be in a row. They won't be in a row. Just move forward. Live the Gospel. Be passionate about Christ & His plans for this earth. His plans for the people alive on the planet today & the issues facing them. 

Cut out the mediocre things. Live the meaningful ones. Cultivate a passion that pushes you past your excuses. You never know. You just might change the world.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Rome Wasn't Built In A Day, But It Could Have Been

In twelve days I turn 30!!!!  I shall continue on in my series of lessons learned in my 20s. Today's lesson: Rome Wasn't Built In A Day, But It Could Have Been. 

Jady preaching at Mosaic in Seattle. It wasn't built in a day. 

We all know the phrase 'Rome wasn't built in a day'. Someone didn't come up with an idea & poof there was Rome. It took time. Perseverance. Generations built Rome. A long line of visionaries completed the mission. Most things worth building take time.

When we moved to Seattle this saying flew through my mind regularly. Mosaic Community Church won't happen in a day. Year one isn't going to hold all the church's full-fledged ministries. Our church culture won't be fully established and solidified. It will be brick by brick, person by person.

It is important to remember that great things come at great cost. It is worth the time to build well so that your handiwork remains for the civilizations that come after you. There is no substitute for time. 

There have been many undertakings in my life that seem big to me. I mentioned in an earlier post how I want things to happen immediately. I am no good at waiting. I have to remember that I am no greater than the Romans & it may take me longer than I want to build what I am building. God even took 6 days to create the earth. 

The problem with building something monumental & putting in the time is you can so easily loose hope and vision for the task at hand. Where do you get the hope to keep building day after day, decade after decade & generation after generation?

Seattle had some hard days while we were trying to plant Mosaic in those first years. I had to remind myself of two things. 

1. It takes time. I have to choose to persevere as long as it takes to see the promises of God completed. 
2. God could do it now. If I am going to keep striving for a big dream, then I have to believe that God could do it today. Maybe this is the day it happens.

If we don't live with the commitment to run the race no matter how long it is AND the faith that God could bust in at any moment and complete the task in a second...then we stop. We get weary of pushing on if we don't believe that today could be the day. Likewise, if we don't have the willingness to persevere then we simply sit around waiting for a 'miracle'.

It doesn't matter what you are building. It could be a marriage, a ministry, a business or a personal breakthrough of some kind. I have learned that to build Rome I have to have the mindset of 'however long it takes' AND the heart of a child with great faith. That combination is how we stay in the game. We have the courage to wake up again & put in another day's work. Knowing that at any moment God will come in with a game-changing play. 

With God ALL things are possible. Rome wasn't built in a day, but it could have been. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Baby Steps Still Go Somewhere

Okay, I'm gonna be really honest. I hate being patient. I want to run in top gear go as fast as I can as far as I can. The other day I was expressing my frustration that there are certain things I am not able to fully do yet. Dreams that haven't materialized and giftings that aren't as mature as I would like. There are days I am so frustrated internally at how far I still have to go until I can accomplish some of the things in my heart to do.

You DO realize that you aren't even 30 yet right? This is the sort of wisdom my friends offer that I find deeply irritating. Yes. I am 29 (two more weeks people. Get the birthday presents ready) almost 30. Yes, God has given me the opportunity to do some pretty cool things in my twenties. However, I am very driven. I always want to do more. 

I have big goals & impossible dreams. I want to do them ALL and I want to do them NOW. This is where I have to remind myself that things happen in increments. You don't jump over mountains. You climb them. One step at a time. Sometimes going more horizontal than verticle. Slowly gaining altitude. 

I have to remember that a gun doesn't suddenly go off and I just run right into the race I have been dreaming of. Looking back I see how things that seemed so insignificant & so small were things that allowed me to slowly gain altitude. 

Regularly starting to pray for the things I am passionate about. One Step Higher.
Being diligent with the job in front of me. Even if it isn't my dream job. Lungs expanding to hold more oxygen.
Valuing my role as a mom of little ones and not trying to jump ahead. Gaining solid footing.
Keeping faith alive in my heart for the things of God. Another step.
Supporting others who are ahead of me. Even if they are standing where I want to be. Step, step.

Little steps on normal days. Things that build my character. Increasing my capacity. It happens slowly. Gradually & almost unnoticed. Ever so slight adjustments. Baby steps. 

But when I look back, all these baby steps have taken me somewhere. It seems unimpressive and slow. It can be frustrating & I can minimize their importance. God doesn't usually move us along in our journeys by leaps and bounds, but rather with baby steps. And baby steps still go somewhere. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Encouragement Lasts

Here I am with Jady. My biggest encourager.

I used to blow encouragements off. I hated when everyone went around & encouraged each other. It seemed so insincere. Of course, they are saying something nice. You are making them say something to me. I didn't listen to what people said. Or I thought I didn't.

I listened when it was close friends or family. I'm thankful that my family encourages me pretty much every day. They say the sweetest things & I am beyond blessed by their words. Over the past few years there have been some hard places personally. Suddenly I found myself getting hungry for someone, anyone, to tell me something they see in me. I was dying for encouragement. 

 I have learned that what people say really does matter. Their words wedge themselves into my mind & I recall them when I need some wind in my sails. Encouragement isn't sappy, it is powerful. It charges my spirit and reminds me that what I am doing & who I am matters. I matter. 

Here are three of my favorite encouragements I have ever gotten:

"You are a queen among women & of admirable conversation." - a member of a short term team I led.

"You are lionhearted. I can see it in you." - Ben Loring

"Joan of Arc. Something about you reminds me of Joan of Arc. Your passion could rally armies." - a girl in my dorm freshman year.

These aren't people super close to me. But I remember their words. It reminds me that what I say matters. Even when I think people aren't listening to what I am saying, my encouragements plant themselves in their hearts. 

I've learned that encouragement isn't some flowery, feel-good thing. It gives power to people. Encouragement matters. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: I Need To Laugh Every Day

These two keep me laughing.

I think we all know that laughing is good. Life gets stressful and sometimes you just need a bit of comedy. Not only is it fun to laugh, but it has tons of health benefits. I'm not going to go into all of that. Google it if you want to know all the health advantages.

Often at the end of the day I realize that I am way too serious and wound up. So, I do something that makes me laugh. It lightens my load and gives me some perspective back. 

I thought I would share with you some of my favorite 'go to' videos for when I need some comic relief. Enjoy & please let me know your favorites. I'd can always use more you tube videos.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: People Aren't Statistics & Their Lives Aren't Data

I am 16 days into my Lesson's From My 20s series. Whew! Are you tired yet? Today's lesson is : People Aren't Statistics & Their Lives Aren't Data.

My dad in Indonesia with an emergency relief team after the Tsunami in 2004

I was 23 when the Tsunami struck in 2004. The news was flooded with images of destruction and grieving people. Too many to take in. I remember seeing so many faces and looking at one homeless family after another. Another child who lost their parents. Another parent who lost a child. They start to simply feel like numbers. Somewhere along the way they became a news cycle and not a life.

We are an information culture. Percentages & statistics invade ever aspect of our lives. Toothpaste commercials even tell us what percentage of dentists recommend their product. Facts. Figures. Numbers everywhere. Numbers that eventually become numbing.

The people the numbers represent begin to become irrelevant.

* Every day 1,000 babies are born with the HIV virus.
* 300,000 children right now are forced to fight as child soldiers in armed conflicts
* 43% of marriages will end in divorce or separation in the first 15 years
* In the United States 9% of people are unemployed
* Approx. 250,000 babies are born each day...

Life becomes a fact. People become a demographic. It is hard to see people as people. Lives as stories. I have learned that I have to fight to see the one among the masses. I have to stop, look someone in the eyes and ask what they have seen. The 300,000 child soldiers are 300,000 individual kids with hearts that long for hope. The 43% of couples who divorce are individual people who fell in love and something went off track resulting in heartbreak. Every person has a story. Each story matters.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: I Can Plan A Wedding For A Stranger

Today's lesson from my 20s is more of a memory...It's about the time I planned a wedding for a stranger in South Africa in a matter of hours. Enjoy.

Here is a pic from my wedding. I spend more than an afternoon planning it.

 When I was a junior in college I went to South Africa. One of the small groups in our church was taking a mission trip. These were families with little kids, so Jady (who I was engaged to at the time), Stephanie Johnson Koegh and I went along as childcare workers. 

We stayed at this lovely country house outside of Cape Town.  The owner was a very strange man. Stephanie and I woke up several times in the middle of the night to the guy blowing his shofar on the hillside. He told me he was calling down fire on the mountainside. I told him he was waking me up. The host was nice, but very strange. We will call him 'Tim'. Tim had a wife and a few kids. 

One of the days we were there Tim's friends came to visit. The girl, who we shall call Nancy, had been friends of Tim & his wife for years. Nancy & her fiance 'Will' were getting married a few weeks later but were stopping by to see Tim's family since they weren't going to be able to go to their wedding.

During team meeting that morning we find out that Will wanted to surprise Nancy with a wedding here at the farm. Will said that Nancy had been really sad about Tim's family being unable to attend their wedding in a few weeks. So he decided to solve that by getting married at Tim's farm. Today. And he wanted our team to make it happen. Right. Or maybe that's a horrible idea? We were all trying to convince Will & Tim that surprising Nancy with a wedding isn't going to go over well. The girl has a real wedding - the kind with guests, a dress, cake, a photographer- in two weeks. 

Well, Will & Tim wouldn't listen. They insisted that Nancy & Will get married that day. Gulp. Fine. Fine. We can plan a wedding. Immediately we broke into teams. 

Our leader was an ordained minister. That's good when having a wedding. 
Another lady had take photography classes so she was the photographer.
Jady could play the guitar. He was the musician.
The children were the flower kids.
Some ladies had done a dance at a women's conference a few months they would perform.
...and then came my part. 

I had the honor of being the one to get her ready. I haven't ever had a conversation with this person & yet I have to get her ready for a wedding without her knowing that is whats going on...this wasn't in our mission trip prep meeting. 

Steph went into a field to collect flowers & came back with some impressive arrangements. Then she helped me trick this poor unknowing woman. We came up with some story about how we would love to give them a gift for their upcoming wedding. A photographer on our team is going to take bridal portraits as a present & we are going to do your hair and makeup! 

I suggested she take a bath. Not only should you take a bath, but make sure to shave your legs. I am not sure if you have ever told a strange lady in South Africa that she should take a bath & shave her legs. It is awkward. Nancy didn't feel like it. No, no. I insist. You really should shave your legs. I couldn't have this lady going on her surprise honeymoon with hairy legs. Its just not right. 

Brace yourself. It gets worse. While Nancy is bathing, Will & Tim come in to the front yard where we are trying to throw the quickly approaching wedding with some news. Well, this is a really big day. Nancy is about to get married & she isn't going to have any friends or family here. It might be a bit difficult for her. Yes! Yes! We already told you that. Just wait for 14 days and her friends & family will be there. At her actual wedding. That she planned. So, we would like for you all to find a meaningful gift to give her as a wedding present. Something that is really significant. Grrr...You must be kidding.

So now we are all scurrying trying to find a gift. Trolling the farm & staring at our sparse suitcases we eventually each found something to give her. Not sure if they were meaningful, but she did get gifts. Back to Nancy. She had gotten out of the shower. Stephanie & I were doing her makeup and fixing her hair. Then the other ladies came in with some old boxy white dress they had found somewhere & a curtain from the guest room that was white lace. 

A handful of us women worked some magic & Nancy actually looked like a lovely bride. The rest of the team was gathered out in the front yard finishing up lighting the candles so I could bring Nancy out. She wanted to go ahead and leave the room to go into the kitchen.  I said the photographer was trying to find the best light and we needed to stay inside to wait for her. No, no. We can't go out with the photographer. I think this old dress you are wearing is an heirloom. We want to minimize the sunlight and dirt that is going to get on it. We need to wait until she is ready. More lip gloss?

I had to keep her in the room for 10 more minutes. She must have thought I was a loon. How do you make small talk with a stranger who doesn't know that you are about to take her to her secret wedding? Finally the time came. I walked her to the patio & then stopped at the door. Tim wanted me to tell her what was happening before I opened the door & the music started. That is the kind of news you want to hear from a stranger.

I know you must have noticed that I have been acting pretty weird these past few hours. Well, the surprise isn't bridal portraits. You are actually getting married! Tim & Will thought it was a great idea and so our group of Americans set up a wedding. On the other side of this door is the aisle and everyone is waiting out there. What do you think? Then I smiled really big to make her think that I thought this was the best idea ever.

Nancy was overjoyed. To her it was the most romantic thing ever. Tim & Will were right. Nancy loved it. I walked her to the isle. Kids who she didn't know threw flowers. A guy on a guitar sang some songs. Two women she never met danced to a song she had never heard. Than a pastor she didn't know married her. 

We had a reception of little sweets. Opened our unusual wedding gifts we put together & sent them off on their honeymoon. Which was a broke-down camper that was parked in the back yard. Two weeks later they had their regularly scheduled wedding. If I remember correctly, they didn't tell their parents or friends about the first one. 

My lesson I learned is that love and romance can look so many ways. It was an odd wedding. Martha Stewart would never have featured it in her magazine & people wouldn't have pinned it on Pinterest.  It was simple and as basic as you could get, but it was beautiful. We celebrated God. We celebrated love. I shared a meaningful moment with a lady I will never see again. Love is beautiful no matter how it comes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: My Heart Needs Regular Editing

In December I turn 30. November is a reflection of lessons I have learned in the past decade. Today's lesson: My Heart Needs Regular Editing.

Some things just need to be thrown out. Like this unicorn.

In the past decade I have moved 13 times. Sadly, I am the quickest packer you have ever met. With every box I pack I end up doing an inventory of the things I own. It is incredible the amount of things you can accumulate over time. 

The good thing about moving so much I that I am forced to sift through all my belongings and get rid of the trash. I have learned that I need to do the same with my heart.

I carry around so much stuff internally. Some stuff is great & I need to hold onto it for the rest of my life. Memories, promises from God, dreams...good stuff. I need to make sure that it isn't lost in the shuffle. The valuable things need to handled with care. They should be displayed in a prominent place, reminding me that such valuable things are in my possession. 

When I pack up I come across other things that are great, but I don't need them anymore. Things I don't use, but are still useful. I give them away.  I should do that with things I carry internally too. I can be a pack rat with ideas, insight, and  dreams that aren't mine to fulfill...I hold on to them as things I want to do. It might fit someone else better than it fits me...but I don't want to give it up. I like to hoard. The only problem is that my heart starts to get cluttered. I can be confused about what I should give my time & energy to. When I start feeling that way, I know I need to give some things up and let others run with them.

For every box I pack it seems that I fill up a trash bag (or recycle box) full of trash that I have collected. Random stuff that just takes up space. Just 'stuff'. My heart gets full of 'stuff' too. I can fill internally busy and anxious when random things begin to clutter. I get irritated that my view is blocked and my focus is distracted by all the 'things'. I gotta get the clutter out of my heart.

I need to edit what is inside. Get rid of the things that are trash. Get rid of the things that are just taking up space and weighing me down. Most of all, I need to remember the treasures that my heart holds. The people I love, the dreams I am called to and the promises of God that I hold on to. My heart needs editing or I loose my vision.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: No Beats Here

Another Lesson From My 20s: No Beats Here.

My 2 year old son has some serious skills.

It pains me to admit this. When I turned 20 I lived in deep, dark deception. I actually thought that I had rhythm. I would hop in the middle of the dance floor with the best of them. A smug self assured look on my face as I danced my jig. 

Why my friends didn't tell me that I wasn't impressing with 'Footloose' level skills, I will never know. This past decade has revealed that music & dancing are not my talents. I can clap on beat. And if you use the term 'sing on key' loosely, then I can do that too.

I used to think I was a good singer. You know those people on American Idol who think they are rock stars & aren't? I'm not that bad, but I can relate. In my defense, I made it in 3 choirs that I had to audition for. So, I had some reason for thinking I could sing. Ugh. Its a pity. I have such strong stage presence...

In my 20s I have attended more weddings than I can remember and participated in dance parties of all kinds. Progressively I discovered the truth about my dance skills. The coordination level hit its peak at 18 I guess. My dancing has just gone down hill since. 

My husband is a drummer. A good drummer. And he can sing. And he can dance. He can dance really well actually. I will have to live vicariously through him if I want to be terrific at it.

Don't worry. I still bust out my moves and sing my songs. Just not in the middle of the dance floor or at the top of my lungs anymore. Lesson learned. It's not my gig. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: I Am An English Cottage In The Middle Of Manhattan.

I turn 30 in December. Each day of November I am sharing a lesson I learned in my 20s. Today's Lesson: I Am An English Cottage in Manhattan.

My in-laws have my kids this morning, so I am writing from a bustling coffee shop. But I am not just anywhere in this coffee shop. I am tucked away in a tiny corner. Cramped but cozy. Slightly isolated but happily enjoying the energy passing in front of me as conversations happen and people filter through. It is my favorite kind of thing. Some of you don't know me very well. Here is an insight into me. How I work and live.

When I was in elementary school I used to want to be a rancher. Then I wanted to be Amish. Really.  I even learned to quilt. Go ahead, you can laugh. But something about the tradition and rustic quality was attractive to me. It was romantic in a sort of way. 

Then in high school & college I wanted to be in the busiest places possible. I loved living in my dorm. Hundreds of girls chatting, swapping clothes and having impromptu dance parties. Anything could happen at any moment. I would travel and sit in London and watch a flow of people pushing and edging their way though the crowds. I loved it. I felt so at home amidst the surging chaos.

In my twenties I found the balance of the two. I love charm and history. Things that are deeply meaningful and personal. A refuge of familiar and significant. A withdrawn place like a cottage. 

I also love busy. Faces flowing whose stories I will never know, but ever ponder. Activities pounding the streets I walk through. An aggressive energy that pushes and advances. I like it. In fact, I am the person riding the subway who isn't smiling or talking to the person next to me. And that doesn't bother me. 

I come out 50/50 on the introvert & extrovert tests. I am right on the line. The balance of it confused me for a while, but I am a bit more self aware now.

Internally I love the cozy and warm spaces. Deep friendships which are represented by the photos on the mantel. I enjoy my wild looking garden and the ivy that tucks me in and hides me away. I myself am an English cottage.

But I don't want to be built in the country. I want to be built on a lot in downtown. Crammed in with cars, small shops and towering apartments. A charming pause in the middle of fury. That is where I like to be.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Listen To Feedback Not Criticism

Lessons From My 20s: Listen to Feedback Not Criticism

I wish I had protective gear on sometimes. Feedback hurts.

I know that a variety of people read this. Men, women, people in their 80s and teenagers. Christians and atheists. People with a full spectrum of political views...I don't know each of you, but I DO know that we ALL have something in common. 

We love to hear what we are doing well and what people love about us. We don't like to hear what we need to improve or what about us offends others.  

This past week I have had the opportunity to listen to people point out what I haven't done well. Awesome. Gotta love those weeks. 

I am learning however what to do with that. It hurts, makes me want to get insecure, I start to assume I know what everyone is thinking of me, and I just want to curl up on my bed and watch the West Wing. Personally, it would be a lot easier to get defensive and reject them all. Tell myself people don't know what they are talking about and they are punks who need to stop being such haters. 

That response won't get me anywhere though. At the same time, I can't respond to each thing someone wishes were different about me. I can't please everyone and meet other people's expectations. So, I differentiate  between feedback and criticism. 

Criticism is just plain negative. Griping. Almost attacking. The person sharing it is usually someone who doesn't know me incredibly well. Their feelings and opinions are based on assumption and frustration of ways they feel I did them wrong. 

People are always going to disagree with things about me. I don't need to stress about every person that doesn't like what I think about God. Or what I choose to do about certain situations. To put it bluntly, criticism isn't about me, its about them. Its about where they feel insecure, where they are arrogant, where they have wounds from a previous experience, or they simply wish I was a different person...I can't do anything about those. Sorry. 

Feedback hurts too. Sometimes even more because the people it comes from are people that I deeply respect and care for. But feedback is based on wanting me to get better. People who give me feedback value me enough to tell me areas that I need to adjust so that I can improve. Or so that our relationship can get better. Feedback acknowledges that my heart & motives were in the right place, but the execution was off.

Feedback comes from people who believe in me. They are willing to tell me that I led that meeting badly. They love me enough to remind me not to tweet after 11pm because my brain's filter is already asleep. I have had people say that I sound really selfish, sharp and frustrated when I communicate a certain way. I'm glad they told me because I DO NOT want to be that person. Feedback is reminding me to aim higher.

Criticism: "You aren't good at loving people. The things you say come off so arrogant."
Feedback: " I know your heart is 100% for people. However, you need to look at the way you are communicating it, because it isn't coming across that way."

I take the feedback and talk to God about it. Then I change where I need to change. I thank people that give it to me straight because I want to be better than I am right now. I want to be a better wife, mom, leader, follower, and a better disciple of Christ. 

I don't pout. I refuse to let myself feel embarrassed or ashamed. I get humble and ask God to help me grow. I change. And then I let it go. I can't carry reminders of places I have fumbled. I listen again to how much God loves me no matter what & I get right back in the game.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: The The Best TV Show In The Past 30 Yrs Is...

Griffin Family Night. Popcorn & watching a show.

There are 22 days left until my birthday. On that day I will have been alive for three decades. I have seen many TV shows. Some of my favorite TV Shows from my lifetime include:

  • Hey Dude
  • The Cosby Show
  • Fraiser
  • Lost
  • Extreme Makeover Home Addition
  • Seinfeld 
  • Top Chef
  • Saved By The Bell
So many great shows. But the absolute winner is .... The West Wing. It is by far the best television show in the past 30 years of my existence. I discovered it when Sophie was born. Gray, drizzle winter in Seattle. I walked one afternoon to the Hollywood Video near my house and looked for something to watch during the late night feedings. There it was. Glistening on the shelf. I hadn't ever watched it before, but it looked like a winner. I would watch an episode throughout the night when I was up with Sophie. And I fell in love.

Jady & I quickly got addicted and joined Netflix just so we could get all the episodes. We eventually purchased the collectors addition and now own each show. Joy. We joke that if we ever renew our vows I will walk down the aisle to the theme song. Its that good.

 It is clever, funny, filled with incredible dialogue (thank you Mr. Aaron Sorkin), loaded with interesting characters...but you actually get smarter watching it. Seriously. Incredibly educational. I am surprised PBS didn't pick it up. 

This clip about sums it up.

You can argue all you want, but President Bartlett and his staff are my favorite. They win in my book. Feel free to leave your opinion of what you consider to be the best show in the past 30 years in the comments!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Paterno & I Both Have Scandals...

Okay, another post on Lessons I've Learned From My 20s...This one is Paterno & I Both Have Scandals.

I may not look scandalous, but I am...

Much to my husband's embarrassment, I didn't know who Joe Paterno was before this week. But now I do. Everyone is furious at him. It's all over the news. Here is a guy who knew something wrong was happening & didn't stop it. He didn't step in. He was passive. 

I wrote a post a few months ago, The Speck and The Plank , that talked about this a bit. So, my lesson is that I am the same as Joe Paterno...I just get paid a bit less. No seriously, I have done the same thing he has. Joe Paterno decided that another person's value wasn't worth the cost. The cost of time it would take to file a complaint. The cost of being interrupted and opening  up a can of worms. Most of all, the cost of loosing a coach that was valuable to the team's success. 

I have done the same thing. So many times I say nothing about an injustice happening before my eyes:

The whole office is gossiping about a colleague. I don't want to get involved. Besides, if this person gets bad reputation then maybe I will get the promotion instead of them.

I hate that this lady is calling her kids horrible names in the grocery store. That is just terrible. But it would be SO awkward if I said something. I'm sure her kids will forget she called them stupid.

In class everyone is ganging up on another student. Oh, well it isn't a big deal. It isn't serious bullying. Plus, if I stand up for him they may start picking on me too.

I don't manipulate and control other people. I am just very strategic in getting my own way. No one gets hurt too badly in the process. It's just the quickest way to get what I want.

I have had each one of these thoughts. You have too. Somewhere deep inside our society we have decided that oppression & injustice are horrible. Someone should do something about it. Just not if it requires something of me personally. 

We have forgotten to sacrifice our needs & wants on behalf of another's needs. Paterno didn't sacrifice his desire to be successful in order to step in for some boys. I haven't sacrificed my desire to be well liked to step in for another who was getting slandered. 

Stories like this make me angry and I hope that people go to jail. Abuse of any kind is wrong. Period. I pray for the victims, I pray that justice gets done and I pray that God would change my heart. I ask God to transform the places in me that values myself over other people. I encourage you to do the same.