Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dear High School Graduate: An Open Letter to my Girlfriends

Hello, hello!

Oh the sweet times. The past few weekends, some very special people in my life have graduated from high school.  They are each uniquely beautiful, starkly different one from the other, and genuinely enjoyable.  We may have more than a few years separating us, but we share passionate love for Ben and Jerry's ice cream, hunger for God, savoring the beginnings of sweet relationships, talking about travel and adventure, and honest conversations about things that are both hard and wonderful.  I am honored to be called their friend. So, I am penning a letter to them and to others like them as they close one chapter and and take a huge bounding leap into the next:

Dear Sweet Friend,

I think about how I was feeling when I was in your shoes.  Feelings of sadness, questions, nervous excitement, bold excitement, and relief flooded me.  It was sad to close the door to high school because you knew you could never go back to those sacred years.  But, I knew that what waited for me on the other side of summer was something I was aching to dive right into.  And scared to dive into. And relieved to finally be about to dive into.... you know what I mean.

So as you dive, I have a few wishes for you.

I wish for you to know that everyone is nervous when they start college.  There will be those that look not only confident, but as if they own the place.  Believe me though, everyone is nervous.  Everyone is starting over....even the ones who come in knowing people.  Starting over in life is one of the most precious gifts you will be given, so make the very most of it.  This is such a great opportunity to leave behind habits that didn't yield great fruit in your life and embrace the things about yourself that line up with the woman you envision yourself becoming.

I wish for you to press into God as you start over.  Only He can help you walk in simultaneous confidence and humility of spirit.

Your confidence can be founded in the truth that HE is writing your story and He is a really good writer.  He is faithful.  And He is the most diverse artist there is.  He doesn't have one style....He has millions and billions of styles.  Each person is a reflection of His style - so that means that you are a reflection of Him too. Sometimes that is easier to believe that of others than it is of yourself.  But believe it of yourself.

Don't let that make you proud, but instead, let it make you grounded in the truth that you are designed on purpose and with great intention. If you can press in to that truth, you will attract the people that will actually sharpen you and make you better. Take your time in finding your crowd. You want to and will attract the kinds of people who are interested in mutually beneficial friendships, not lopsided ones where it's all about you needing them or them needing you.  Search out those kindred spirits who have enough going on in their hearts/spirits/minds to want to be a good friend to you as much as you want to be a good friend to them.  If it takes you a few months to do that, I promise the wait will be worth it.

Recently, I have seen this quote from Oscar Wilde all over the place: "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken."  Now here's the funny thing about that for you right now: you don't know who you are yet!  I say that in the kindest, most empathetic way possible.  It's odd because the more accurate thing would be to say that you both do and do not know who you are yet.  In fact, it is absolutely thrilling to be exactly where you are because you are about to discover so much about yourself!  How exciting! You have inklings now of who you are and were created to follow those inklings. Follow those things that you do know about yourself.  God will delight to introduce you more and more to yourself.

So be inspired by those that you meet.  Be inspired by that great outfit.  By that unreal test score. By that brave performance.  Be inspired, but don't be jealous.  Inspiration allows you to see greatness in others and it causes you to dig deeper into the path that God has started to carve for you.  Be inspired by others and go for excellence.  You will never, ever regret the pursuit of excellence.  The pursuit of perfection, on the other hand, will lead you down a path that leads to lots of stuff you won't like in the future.

For you my friend, I pray that you will love learning.  Truly!  It is SUCH a gift to have a functioning and capable brain. Be a woman who loves to learn and is interested in intellect.  You won't each have the same version of that....but be a learner. If you approach each class as an opportunity to learn something, you'll be well served.  And listen, don't down math.  Math is important.  I got a marketing degree and used math all the time in my marketing/media job after graduating. I still use math skills all the time. You don't have to ace it, but don't dismiss it as pointless!  Do you want to be a woman who is successful in any way, shape or form? Then don't let numbers scare you. Okay, enough about math.  Back to loving learning.  Search out the professors that everyone talks whatever you can to get into their classes.  Don't always go for the easy classes.  Embrace the ones that will push you.  And here's the key: talk to your professors.  Go introduce yourself to them!  Push down the violent butterflies in your stomach and shove your hand out and introduce yourself.  Tell them that you just wanted to say hello and that you hope to learn as much as  you can.  And then go to their office hours when you're studying for a big test.  College is so much bigger than high school.  Talking to your teachers and being known by your teachers is a given in high school.  It isn't in college.  That's entirely up to you....even in the smaller classes it will be up to you to have a relationship with them in which you can actually ask questions.  And believe me, they (mostly) want you to succeed...even the scary ones.  So, if you are willing to be part of teeny tiny fraction of students who go to office hours and ask for help from the professor, you will get keys that others simply don't.  Your learning experience will be so much richer because of your willingness to initiate getting to know your professors.

And oh, my friend, I wish for you to find friends that want to learn about pressing in to God together.  What I have learned that there is actually a lot to learn about pressing in to Him.  There is so much of Him available to us but my biggest seasons of learning that have come from putting myself in circles where others know a lot more than I do/did.  That can absolutely happen for you in college. Are there women who are older than you that get together to pray? Invite yourself.  You will learn so much about prayer from being around people who have been praying longer than you have.  It can truly rub off on you.  I assure you, it will! The same goes for reading the Bible.  There's a big wide world available to find others who want it too and push each other to go for it.  Don't be afraid of being the 'serious' one.  The 'spiritual' one.  Go for it and dive into the Lord like never before.

Lest you think that I only hope for you to have a serious, spiritual and academic experience beginning just a few months from now....let's talk about fun.  Have it!  If there's an opportunity to do something you've never done (of the legal variety, ahem), do it!  Go on road trips!  Do ridiculously silly things with your friends and laugh loudly!  Go see movies late at night.  Dance in the hallways.  Travel as much as you can.  If you get the chance to study abroad....DO IT.  Experiment with your hair.  Cut it because you can and hair grows back!!! Have your favorite restaurants and go as much as you can with the people who are close to you.  And here's a wild the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice in your room on a rainy weekend, surrounded by pizza and candy.  The food you choose for that experience is key. Choose well, young one.  Try different ethnic foods than what you are used to.  College is such a great time to find new foods that you love :) I guess the follow up to that is, don't love the food too much!!!! LOL!  Find the good coffee in town (not Starbucks) and drink that coffee as much as you can.  Embrace these years for the adventure they offer you and soak it up.

And finally, a few wishes for you on the topic of love.  If you find the love of your life while you're young, darling, love every minute of that story.  And if you don't, darling, love every minute of that story.  You, truly, have almost zero control over when love will become a part of your story.  So, please, enjoy your story either way.  Live life to the fullest and embrace it.  That sounds utterly cliche, doesn't it? But, believe me, those who trust the Lord enough to do this, end up having very interesting and beautiful stories that are almost irresistible.

But one note to those who do happen to find head-over-heels love young: don't drop your girlfriends. No one person was ever intended to be your all-inclusive need meeter.  Including Mr. Right.  Keep being a good friend and giving quality time to your girls.  It's a tough balance and sometimes you'll get it right and sometimes you'll get it wrong....and sometimes you'll get it right and the friends will still be frustrated with you...but just keep trying.  It's worth it.

And to the ones who don't find love young: guard your heart from jealousy.  Jealousy inevitably  makes you do really funky things and causes you to be someone you really aren't.  Your life is goooooood.  Live up your singledom!  Have fun and love life and love who you are....I promise you that someday Mr. Right will say that that was one of the biggest things about you that drew him to you.

Oh my friend, I am truly so excited for you.  You're getting ready to dive!  I just can't wait for coffee dates to hear of all your tales.

Much love, happy diving, and happy weekending y'all,

A few of the beauties in my life:

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Messy Kitchen and Me

Happy FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!

It's the early morning hours of Friday and although the littlest man in my home has just piped up with his first 'good morning sounds' of the day, there is something still sacred about being awake before the sun.  A little painful (ha!) but still sacred.

I hope you've had a good week!  Our week has consisted of rain, the last week of Mother's Day Out for Liam before Summer break, praying with friends, Mr. Shepherd struggling with some pain (which I've assumed was teething but we are heading to the Dr today just to make sure there's not something else I'm missing) and cleaning my kitchen all day every day.  My friend Natasha is pretty funny.  She has coined the term ADED.  Which represents All Day Every Day.  Ha!  No explanation necessary for any mommy type reading, right?!

But seriously, the kitchen.  For the past two weeks, it has become my arch rival on a daily basis.  Or I guess we could say, ADED.  The dang thing has won every single battle we've had recently.  I mean, truly, I'm not sure I've beat it in any one of our encounters.  I am fairly certain that I use every moment of free time that I have to whittle away at it during the daylight hours.  And some days, it really does come fairly close to being beat.  It looks good by the time I'm done with it.  But how quickly it resurfaces in it's messy winningness.

Seeing as how this battle has raged for a few weeks now, I have most definitely found myself doing deep, down to my toes, soul searching as I've scrubbed dishes for the millionth time.  Pondering questions of 'Whhhhhhhhy?' and 'What's wrong with me?' and 'How in the world can I fix this?'  You know, if you haven't been in such a wrestle with such a room recently, this may sound trivial!  But I assure you, it is very much all out warfare when you're stuck in the middle of it!

In all of that deep down to my toes soul searching, a few things have occurred to me.  Namely, I'm in one of those stretches of mommyhood.  You know the ones.  The ones where someone needs something ADED. Granted, I think that's the story of being a mom most days....but my experience has been that there are just these phases where it heightens and it's somehow more.  My big boy relishes playing with me and being at my feet, and my little boy is teething and just crawled for the first time yesterday and is doing Olympic level developmental leaps....which is delightful but means that there is not much putting him down for more than ten minutes.  And I personally struggle to be very productive at all in ten minute chunks.  And then there's my biggest boy who relishes quality time together at the end of our work days...and I do too.  That and, by the end of these days of mommying, I have very little steam left.

I've determined that what I really truly need is for everyone to go away.  HA!!!!!!  Mind you, I don't wish for everyone to go away (mostly)!  But if I could just be left alone in my house for 3-4 hours, I could beat it all down in a ferocious way.  I could practically run as I cleaned because there would be no so little hindrance.  I'd be like one of those fierce athletes that trains wearing weights so that when they get to the actual event to compete they feel like they can fly because their body is so much lighter.  Totally.

It takes very little imagination for me to fast forward my life ten years and look back at my mommy of little people self and say something like 'Sister, let it go.  Relish the babies.  If the mess comes with the babies, live it up!'  So I try to keep that in mind.  Because I do LOVE this season of my life. BUT, when you do not work outside of the home, sweet mercy, a messy house is really something to wrestle with.  Even as I'm typing, this all sounds a little over the top dramatic!  But, I kid you not, when you are swimming in a messy kitchen that you just can't beat - day after day - it starts to feel like a torture method a terrorists would use. No.....not overly dramatic at all. Smirk.

Of course, at the end of the day, the messy kitchen isn't really about the messy kitchen.  It's about how it makes me feel.  And, it makes me feel overwhelmed.  It makes me feel like I'm just not getting on top of life.  It makes me feel like I'm trapped. It makes me feel irresponsible.  At about this point, I'm a really hopin' you can relate!  Because if you can't, well that's just embarrassing then.

Although it's now Friday afternoon as I'm wrapping this post up (we've now started the day, enjoyed some quality time, I got to clean for 25 minutes (timer set), played cars and the Busy Town board game, gotten a summer hair cut for the big boy, picked up a charm at Vintage Pearl, ate a little lunch at Mimi's and now we are back and both boys are having room sleeping, one 'reading') and I've pondered the words I wrote early this morning.

It's always dangerous to take a pause when writing because the second-guesser inevitably shows up.  Thoughts of how ridiculous it is to write about how my kitchen has been my enemy for two weeks, thoughts of how petty it must sound to someone not in this stage, thoughts of judgement from those who truly excel at keeping order in their home or thoughts of judgement from those who see keeping order as far less important than spending all your time focused on little ones.......the list goes on.  But here I am, still writing.  Oh well, I say.  My kitchen really has been my foe over the past two weeks!  But do you know what.....the Lord does speak through most any situation in which we face a foe.

It makes me think of James 1:2-4:

  Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Count it all joy.  And the word 'let' in verse four really strikes me.  It is possible to face a trial and not 'let' the fruit come.  Let steadfastness have its full effect, that I may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  So by the grace of God, I press in to steadfastness because HE is steadfast.  And if HE is, and HE is in me and I am in Him, then I have the capacity to let steadfastness do it's work.  

And though I still press forward to gain the upper hand in my kitchen (come on weekend!), the Lord has reminded me of a few truths:

- When I feel overwhelmed, I panic.  It's hard for me to know where to start and I'm pretty sure I literally walk in circles.  So, make the job smaller.  Focus on one part and stick with it.  

- Set the timer and commit to cleaning for that amount of time and then stop.  Part of the reason that I HATE having my kitchen talk back at me with its messiness is that it genuinely robs me from time I'd love to spend playing on the floor with my big boy and baby boy.  If I set the timer, it gives boundaries to all.  Liam knows when I'll be done and I know when I'll be done and when that timer goes off, I walk away and settle onto the floor for some car playing.  

- Allow truth to walk me back from the edge of dire thinking.  The truth is: I am fully capable of getting on top of the kitchen.  I am not a perfect mom/home manager, but I'm good.  And the kitchen simply doesn't get to talk to me.  I get to talk to it.  Sometimes I feel like Adam and Eve....God gave them dominion over the creation, correct?!  So, I have to remind myself and this house and its little voice, that God gave me dominion - not the other way around.  This house doesn't own me or have the right to tell me who I am or what I am.  So back off already, kitchen!  You'll meet your maker when I get the window of time.  And you'll be sorry you ever breathed a thing to me :)........ Seriously as I type this I'm contemplating whether or not I'm entirely stable.  Ha!  

- Today is beautiful.  Even if I stare at a list of things that need to be done ADED, this day is beautiful.  And my baby boys will be full grown men bigger than me in the blink of an eye.  So pass me that squishy baby cheek to nuzzle and kiss, and let me stare into the deep and sweet eyes of a three and a half year old and hear his heart.  These are God's treasures that He's trusted into our hands to nurture and train into their destinies.  That's important.  

- But a clean kitchen is important too.  Because it makes my brain stop hurting.  And I'm pretty sure there is a direct link to a clean kitchen and peace.  Wink, wink. So, I keep pushing when I can.  

Uh, thank you LORD that it's Friday!  Vietnamese food with my favorite three men awaits me tonight and that means I won't dig my kitchen hole deeper.  Glory.  Highest praises!  HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!!!  

I sincerely hope you're on the brink of a delightful weekend.  And whatever your foe has been, I hope you find words to talk back to it a little.  Remind it of who's who.  A little trash talk feels real good.  

Love y'all and happy weekending,

Friday, May 1, 2015

Friday: Ponytail hair, boys and coffee, and the great pillow debate.

I'm not sure which city you're sitting in as you clicked the link to read today....but this Friday in Tulsa is that perfect kind of weather.  That is, if you like sunshine, short sleeves, and blue skies.  Ha!  If Seattle is your vibe, then you probably wouldn't use the word perfect!  Ahhhhhh perfection is in the eye of the beholder.
I'm going to be straight up with you: I have nothing meaty to write today.  No insights to share.  No deep ponderings to present.  Just my thoughts and goings about on this Friday.  Now for myself, the uber nosy person who actually does enjoy looking at paparazzi pictures because I love seeing glimpses into people's lives, this sort of post would be a totally legit way to spend my time!  But if you're looking for something that will make you better because you read it, keep on a lookin' my friend.  But don't really because I'd love your company for a few minutes.

So here's my Friday so far:

Sunshine makes me want to be in a coffee shop.  Of course, most any kind of weather makes me want to be in a coffee shop - right?!  Starting when Liam was a few months old, we enjoyed taking him to coffee shops with us.  I mean, if you start them young it will stick, I'm thinking.  Liam is three and a half (actually 3.75 if we're being technical) and Shep is seven months.  Gotta get Shep in the groove.  Within an hour of being up and around this morning - I knew that the coffee shop was calling our names.  Ran the idea by Liam, got a hearty yes, and the plans started churning.

We put Shepherd down for his early nap and Liam and I went to work getting dressed and cleaning up the playroom.  Other than prepare meals and take care of little men, I clean.  I am constantly striving to become better at cleaning.  I can't keep at it all of the time but mercy, it makes us all feel better when things are mostly put away.  Liam is becoming a great picker upper!  So while I wrangled my third day hair into a ponytail, he picked up all of his cars in the play room.  The cars had made their way into every square foot of  the room so I was impressed with his thoroughness!

Speaking of third day hair.... I am genuinely concerned as to what will happen to my hair if we ever have a third child.  Since welcoming Shepherd, I now go longer than ever before between washes.  Very mixed feelings about this!  On the one hand, it's so liberating!  On the other hand, when I feel clean and put together, I just seem to have better days.  Hmmmmm.... I guess that's one deep pondering that squeezed its way in to today's musings!  Let's check back on this topic when Shep turns one and see if I'm washing more frequently or sticking to the same routine.

We got the play room whipped into shape, I got fully dressed (accomplishment!), Liam got dressed, we got Shepherd nursed (actually only I got Shep nursed) and into the car we went to, DoubleShot bound.  Liam likes to say we are going to 'vroom' somewhere.  So we vroomed to the coffee shop.  The Lord heard my prayer as we drove and, lo and behold, there was a couch open and waiting for us.  We decided to bring books with us today and a couch was what we needed to spread out and get comfortable.  I'm telling you, it was just one of those delightful experiences.  Some days with little people are challenging from the moment growing feet hit the floor, and other days brim with delight.  So we soak up the days of delight!

Shep worked Sophie the Giraffe over with fervor and Liam and I talked and ate and drank and read.

After Shepherd started tuning up and beckoning us to make a speedy exit, lest we make quite the scene, we piled back into the car.  Which is where Liam donned his glasses and became, what I like to call, Little White Boy Pitbull.  You see it, right?  

We got home and my house still needs attention.  But if cleaning was my top priority every single day, I would never have friends, spend time with the Lord, write, play with my boys, or continue falling in love with my husband.  So, instead of continuing my tidying endeavors at the moment....I'm chatting with you and thinking about throw pillows while Shepherd naps and Liam has room time.

A few things: One - why are throw pillows so expensive?  Two - why can't I like the cheaper ones?  Three - it is quite the design feat to mix/match patterns.  I don't like matchy matchy and I want to bring more variety in, but I feel like you can go way right or way wrong with the eclectic approach.

So here's the throw pillow that I have and am working around....we call these the talking chairs:

And these are pictures I took at Pottery Barn....I have decided that I just don't like other throw pillows and will figure out how to save my pennies to make these throw pillows reality.

We have a (large) dark brown leather couch that the pillows will go on.  So the bottom pic really should have been taken on dark brown background.  Ah well, I was 66% effective.

PLEASE pardon the blogger challenged picture alignment below.  I don't even know.

Seriously, the alignment drives me craaaaazy.

But here are my thoughts:  I love the blue pillows.  But, if I go blue it will be the first place in my house that I'm accentuating blue other than our master bedroom.  And that means I need to pull it in a little more elsewhere.  And that means spending more money.  In addition, I really love the chevron print in the bottom two pics but the print is a little cutesy and I want something that's a little more eclectic.  Which leads me to really liking the combo in the top picture.  It's still a chevron but it's not a cream background so it doesn't pop as much and the black looks kind of like zebra print.  And I like it even better in person than in the picture.  Follow me?  No?  Wondering why in the world you are spending your time reading these thoughts? Well I'm wondering why in the world I just spent time typing all of this, so you're in good company.  Thinking I'm on the totally wrong track?!.....please save me from total mental collapse and keep that opinion to yourself!  LOL.  The mommy brain can be a fragile place.....

Having said all of that, my friend I sincerely hope you've had a good week.  I hope that your weekend is full of grace, peace, joy and adventure.  I hope that you and me both press into the grace to choose for our weekends to be full of grace, peace, joy and adventure.

Happy weekending y'all!

Much love,