She’s A Fraud!

**You are not a fake, cheap substitute for greatness.  You are not an imposter waiting to be discovered.  You are a real, adopted, redeemed and delivered daughter of the one true God.**

 

I’m (suddenly?) less than a year away from 40 and low and behold, that metabolism thing my mom always talked about, is, in fact, real.  And it’s SLOWING DOWN.  I realized this the morning our scale hit the magical barrier, the upper limit, the beyond the danger zone into nuclear meltdown rage inducing range.  Quite frankly I am not sure how the scale survived because I nearly threw it out the window.

Yet, the scale did survive and a few months back my sweet accountability partner husband and I started trying to watch we put into our bodies to see if we could make that scale repent of its hurtful ways.  With a lot of complaining and a few weeks of eating “better,” I began to notice a difference.  My pants were fitting better and the scale was ticking down a bit as well.   Excited to share my progress, I told my husband about how happy I was, and ended with: “BUT who knows if the scale is right”

It was at this moment that my husband, who often gets ever so slightly annoyed with me and my neurotics, but rarely gets truly mad at me, slams down the spatula he was using to make our 36th egg of the week, and spins around his head around to face me.  Firmly, he says, “Stop it.  Just. Stop.  The minute you gain weight you’re sure the scale is right, but now when it’s down you’re sure it’s wrong? Why are you always so hard on yourself?  Why can’t you EVER give yourself credit?”

He was right. If the scale was up, it was because it was only ever going to go up.  If the scale was down, it was a fluke and it would be right back up the next day.

I do this CONSTANTLY.  Not just about weight.  I do this with school.  In my first class of seminary, I’ve gotten 100s on everything except one assignment where I got a 99. In EVERY SINGLE CASE I’ve explained it away with some rationale that puts me down:  The instructor must have given everyone As.  He only gave me an A because I turned it in early.  I’m sure now he is just giving me As so that I’ll keep going to school there and giving them tuition money. 

I was recently asked to consider a challenging leadership role in a large organization.  Instead of thinking, “clearly my work speaks well of my abilities. Clearly they see how I can uniquely add value,” I attributed the offer as one of convenience for them simply for knowing me. Then perhaps it was because someone who happens to be an incredible encourager, inaccurately sang my praises to the right people in leadership.

Occasionally a sweet elderly couple will approach our table at a restaurant, complement our three kids on how well behaved they are and my knee-jerk response is: “sometimes we get lucky!” Um, no, our kids know that not behaving when we are out spells trouble, but it sounds a lot less smug to claim luck was just on our side.

If I do let myself be proud of my accomplishments, it’s ALWAYS accompanied by pointing out some other area of my life that isn’t 110% put together and highly functioning.  Yea, I’ve got nearly all my Christmas shopping done, but you should see my house, it’s a disaster.  I haven’t done laundry in a week. 

I could give you other examples, but I’m not sure how much more of my crazy you need to get the point.

Providentially, I was reading a new book by Tara Beth Leach, “Emboldened” and it hit me: this is NOT JUST ME.  What I constantly do to myself in underestimating my accomplishments, questioning my contributions, and downplaying my insights: women do this all the time.  It’s called the “Imposter Syndrome.”  Several psychologists discovered it in the 1970s and more research has been done since then to understand it (Imes and Clance, 1978.)   The Imposter Syndrome is believing that you are a fake or a fraud in an area or areas of your life and you live in fear of being “discovered.”

Tara Beth shares insights from studies that revealed women consistently rate their performances and qualifications significantly lower than male counterparts.  Doesn’t matter the field: law, medicine, politics, parenting, friendship.  Women don’t want to give themselves credit.  And ironically, women often feel like imposters and fakes when they are in positions where they are using their gifts. Tara Beth explains it this way: “although a women has clear ability and giftedness, and although others recognize her giftedness and ability, there is an inability on the part of the woman to internalize that giftedness as genuine.  When a woman is called, gifted and recognized as gifted, but is unable to embrace her giftedness, we see the imposter syndrome. It is not whether a woman has a gift but whether she can internalize this as true.” (p37)

I’m not sure if we struggle with this because we are culturally conditioned to feel inferior or if we are just scared and trying to protect ourselves with pre-emptive strikes.   Either way, ladies, and men out there too, who fall into this trap: Imposter Syndrome not only breaks my heart because it means that we are downplaying, sidelining, or taking for granted our gifts, but it actually kindof ticks me off.

No, ticks me off isn’t strong enough.  It pisses me off.

Here’s why: when we shortchange ourselves, when we dismiss our gifts, we aren’t just being modest.  When we excuse away our skills we aren’t just staying humble and grounded.   It’s not just about us and our feelings.  It’s much much bigger.  When we refuse to acknowledge what we bring to the table we are communicating something about the God that created us.  We are telling Him, and the world, that protecting ourselves by diminishing our contributions, or hanging on to our own negative perceptions of ourselves is more important to us than being who THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE made us to be.

We are saying that we’d rather:

  • hang on to negative self-talk than live out God’s plan for our lives.
  • undersell our abilities, discount our contributions, and second guess our skills than step out there and claim the gift with our name written on it.
  • keep telling ourselves that we are failing, falling apart or losing it than explore growing a faith that is deep enough to handle taking risks and maybe being scared, but maybe getting something spectacularly right.

We are created in God’s image: male and female.   Each time God created something He said it was “good.” After ALL that God created, it was only after creating man and woman that God said it was “very good.”  We ARE very good and we are created for very good things.

In fact, as women we are so good that we were God’s solution to the world’s first problem.

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

In the original Hebrew, the word helper is “ezer” (ay-zer).  This word is used 21 times in the Old Testament.  Twice in the context of the first woman.  Three times of people helping in life threatening situations.  And 16 times it is used to refer to God as a helper to his people.  Ezer describes aspects of God’s character: our strength, our rescuer, our protector and our help.*  Woman, a help-mate, ezer, was God’s solution to Adam being alone.  We were created as the perfect complement, the perfect counterpart, the unique advantage, the yin to Adam’s yang.  Adam wasn’t physically alone in the garden.  God was there.  He was surrounded by animals, and life nourishing vegetation of every kind, but without woman, he was alone.  Incomplete.\

We are made to thrive.  Yet when we make excuses and sell ourselves short we cut off the blood supply and stunt growth.

I know that I’m not alone in this Imposter syndrome struggle.  I know at least one of you out there has felt like you’ve been given opportunities, with your kids, with your husband, with your neighbors, in your work or in the line at the grocery store, that you limped your way through, or feel as though you spectacularly bombed.  But what if you didn’t?  What if, someone needs to slam the spatula down and tell you to stop being so hard on yourself? What if, instead, what you did was just exactly what was needed? What if you really were good enough?  What if, most of the time, God is smiling and PROUD of you? Of the YOU he delighted in making?

I think that if we pray, if we spend time with God and in his word, if we listen to the Holy Spirit and let God’s grace and truth permeate our lives, that whatever we do, big and small, each and every day, might just be what God had in mind when he created Eve.

So here’s the challenge: let go of the Imposter Syndrome and embrace your calling as daughters of God, created in his magnificent image.

Embrace the fact that, warts and all, YOU are the EXACT parent your kids need.  Your parenting might look different than mine.  That difference doesn’t mean that one of us is a fraud, it just means that we are being the parent God knew our kids needed to thrive.

Embrace the fact that while there is nothing new under the sun, there is no one else exactly like YOU on the planet.  That YOU bring unique perspective, voices and light to whatever it is that you do.

Embrace the emotions, the insights, the intelligence, the strengths that are a part of the role that God gave us when he created Eve, as ezer to Adam.

You are not a fake, cheap substitute for greatness.

You are not an imposter waiting to be discovered.

You are the real deal.

The real, adopted, redeemed and delivered daughter of the one true God.

 

And that’s a “very good” thing.

 

 

 

 

*http://margmowczko.com/a-suitable-helper/

 

For more reading:

Imposter syndrome:  http://paulineroseclance.com/impostor_phenomenon.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/woman-helper-suitable.html

http://drwalterbramson.com/what-is-an-azer/

Tara Beth Leach “Emboldened”

Leaping to your goal- simple tips to take you past the obstacles.

Last week our five year old, Avery, fell into Stow Lake at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  I was blessed enough to not have personally witnessed his fall.  Instead, I heard his cry from across the lake, down a hill and echoing off the walls of the women’s restroom.  Two years ago I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about hearing him cry from a football field away, but we’re maturing as a family and so at present, his loud cry was out of the ordinary.  I knew right away that it was an upset and embarrassed cry but not an “I’m hurt” cry. Which reminds me of when I had our first kid and read that book (the baby whisperer??) and I distinctly remember thinking that the woman who said you could tell the difference between each of the unique cries of babies had literally written that book only to illustrate what a terrible mom I was and always would be because there was no way on earth that I would ever be able to tell the difference. . .  yet look at me now, almost 12 yrs later, able to tell the difference from a distance that would impress superman . . .

 

But I’m getting off track.  Back to Avery’s unanticipated swim in the lake.

 

The kids and my husband Marty were checking out the boats at the dock when Avery decided to jump from the wooden walkway across to the sidewalk on land.  He missed.  Missed the edge and fell into what can only be described as water that no living thing was supposed to ever enter: a disgusting, green, murky, bird feces and fish spit filled pond.  Marty heard the splash and turned around to see one kiddo missing.  I can only imagine how his heart must have stopped in that moment.  Shortly after Avery popped back up from the green sludge and Marty drug him out.  By the time I made it up the hill he was already being stripped of his gross clothes and shoes.  I could only laugh but the look on Marty’s face stopped me, for at least a few minutes.  After a few more tears, lots of laughing and a trip to target we were good as new.  Plus, we had a new favorite memory for our vacation.

 

How many kids have tried and successfully jumped that corner? Probably too many to count.  But Avery jumped too soon. The gap was too far.  It was obvious to even his eight-year-old brother that he wouldn’t make it, but he jumped because the thought of missing the other side never occurred to him.

 

Of course, as his mom, I don’t want to see him fall into another lake, but I admire that childish spirit of optimism and I hope he’ll hang on to some of it.  Of seeing only where you want to go and not all the obstacles in between you and your goal.  Because sometimes it IS just enough to get you there.

 

Have you ever noticed how as adults we don’t talk about goals anymore? We still have them, right? Why is it so rare that we ask or voice them anymore? Are we supposed to stop feeling the desire to accomplish something after we graduate from college and get a job?  Or after we get married and have kids? As if whatever we accomplished by our mid 20s or 30s is all there ever was to achieve and now it’s just time to start living for the goals your children can achieve. Or is it that the desire is still there, but we simply stop sharing our goals or asking others about theirs because it feels too intimate, too vulnerable- because we are afraid of whispering out loud something that won’t come true?  Afraid of judgement? Afraid of failing? Afraid of actually having to do something?

 

I think those desires are still there.  It’s there for me, perhaps even louder and bigger and scarier than it’s ever been.  I want to write. Not just once every few weeks, but every day. And this is big: I want to write words that are read.  Not words just written and stored on my computer for me to look back at. Words that are strung together into an entire book.  Words that reach people.  Words that encourage. Words that point people toward god and Jesus.  Words that make people FEEL something and want to do something with those feelings.

 

So there, I went first.   Now it’s your turn. What’s your goal? What’s your dream?

 

Speak it out loud, even if it’s just for you.

 

 

I’ll wait.

 

 

Good.

 

 

Now what?

 

It’s been said that a goal without a plan is just a dream.  So let’s get down to brass tacks.  You’ve breathed your goal out loud, now breathe some life into it.

 

Obstacles are what we see when we take the focus off of our goals – Henry Ford.  A plan is a way to focus on your goal.   I am so often focused on the obstacles in front of me that I lose sight of the goal:

  • My kids and my husband need me to be a present presence.
  • My followers/reach/subscribers are in the single digits.
  • I don’t have an agent.  I don’t know how to write a book proposal.  I’ve never written more than a few pages at a time, how will I write an entire book?
  • I’ve got graduate school to juggle now too.
  • I should spend more time on that project I’m working on for our church.
  • I have a hard time disappointing people who ask me for help, whether it’s teaching, leading something or helping out somewhere.
  • Eating is crucial for life. So is sleep. Taking showers are important if I want people to talk to me.

 

You get it.  You’ve got your own list of obstacles. Some of these things aren’t important or real but some truly are. And if I don’t address them, then the gap between my goal and me will be something I can’t just close my eyes and jump across.  I’ll end up just like Avery, covered in green, smelly water and crying my “embarrassed” cry.

 

So this is where I’m starting and I’m sharing it with you so that we can do it together.  These principles worked for me whether I was in corporate world, children’s or women’s ministry or I was just trying to manage our household, our kids and our finances together with my husband :

  1. BE INTENTIONAL. Right now, I’ve got more disposable time on my hands than I’ve had in years, but if I don’t plan my days and my weeks it just slips through my fingers.  Gobbled up by things that take my time but leave me no closer to my goal.  Planning means looking ahead, saying no to things that don’t fit, being clear on where you need to work and focus.  This is the principle I struggle with the most.  In Luke 14, Jesus talked of the cost of following him in terms that anyone who wants to accomplish anything would understand: “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
  2. BREAK IT DOWN.  Break it down into smaller pieces.  Then celebrate the little wins.  I’m sure my husband would prefer that I didn’t announce with big fanfare each and every single time I turn in a grad school  assignment or every time I sit down and write a paragraph, but he bears with me as my little cheering squad and knows that it’s just my need to celebrate the small steps.  Maybe your small steps are getting up to exercise twice a week or choosing at least one clean meal a day. Whatever they are, figure it out and celebrate them progress.
  3. SEEK KNOWLEDGE.  Be open to changing course.  Learning is good. Knowledge is even better.  Be a life-long learner who applies what they’re discovering to achieve those dreams and goals in a better way.  Read.  Listen to podcasts.  Talk with wise friends. Pray.  Listen for God’s voice:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.

Commit your works to the Lord
And your plans will be established.

Proverbs 16: 1-3

4. BE VULNERABLE.  Share your goal.  You’ve already said it out loud to yourself.  That’s the scariest part.  Tell someone else you trust. Let them in on your plan.  Give that someone permission to hold you accountable.

Let’s dream big dreams.  And make big plans. And work together to close the gap between where we stand on the dock and the land.  And let’s be brave enough to take the final leap when the time comes, with the thought of missing never occurring, because we’ve made sure it won’t.

 

 

To all my non-christian friends, I am sorry. . .

There are very few things that I believe are worth drawing a “line in the sand” for.  I believe in grace upon grace and I believe in margin for people to make up their own minds, space for people to have different opinions and that healthy debate can change the world for the better.  However, in light of recently voiced opinions and “manifestos,” here are a few things that I won’t waver on, a few things that I AFFIRM:

I AFFIRM that I am a sinner and I deserve to finish out this life and be gone forever (ie. Death) for the countless ways that I sin every single day.

I AFFIRM that the only way to change that and receive eternal life is through acceptance that Jesus, the son of God, came to die for me and for my sins.

I AFFIRM that Jesus doesn’t just want me to accept him, he wants a relationship with me, and through that PERSONAL relationship, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will convict me of my personal sins and guide me to a life lived more like he desires.

I AFFIRM that the path and journey that God has ME on is NOT THE SAME as everyone else’s.  The way that he will guide ME, convict ME, change ME, does not look the same as my husband, my neighbor, my kids, the man in the grocery store or on the other end of a telemarketing call, pretty much every one else in the world.  I’m not saying I’m special, my point here is that everyone’s path and journey with God looks different.

I DENY that a group of “leaders” can decide what additional items I or anyone else need to affirm or deny in order to be called a Christian.

I DENY that I or any human has all the answers to the mysteries of God and the bible or knows beyond question how to “live right” on this earth.

There are countless issues and stances out there today that we could spend a lifetime studying, arguing, debating, picking apart and agonizing over, but they aren’t issues of salvation.  And arguing, debating and throwing stones about some of these issues only drives people away from Jesus.  Away from the joy of knowing him, away the peace that only he can give, away from the love and acceptance that he provides, away from reaching out and receiving the gift of being saved.

I’ll be honest, that’s all I really care about most days:  saving people.   If someone is drowning, we don’t ask them to change their lives, admit to all the wrongs we think they’ve done, force them to believe everything it’s taken years of study and prayer for us to even somewhat understand, before we save them.  No, we throw them a rope or we swim out to them and we FREAKING SAVE THEM.

And later, after they are safe, we can talk about how we can avoid nearly drowning again in the future.  But chances are, they don’t really need us to tell them, because just being saved has changed something deep inside.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said: to love God with all your heart, soul and mind.  He told us the second commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus didn’t say, love God, and then go make sure everyone in the world feels judged.  Our job as Christians is to love.  It is someone else’s job altogether to convict people of the things God wants to change in their lives.

We, as believers, are told to be different from the world, to be set apart.  Be careful that you don’t confuse living what you believe is a spotless life as what is to be different from the world.  We aren’t different because we have it all figured out, we are different because we are supposed to live and love differently.  When people think of Christians, our goal is not for them to think of some standard I could never (and maybe never should, but that’s a different post) live up to.  Our goal should be that they think: wow, I may not believe what they do, but boy can they show love, do good, help people and make a positive difference.

It shouldn’t be, oh there is that group of people that is so fixated on one or two social, peripheral, non-salvation issues that they spent all their time speaking out against, writing manifestos or hypercritical tweets on that they forgot to tell me about that man that they believe saved them from certain death.

To all of my non-christian and Christian friends who have felt or feel judged, worthless, ignored and alienated by the Christian church, the “Christian Machine” or the “Christian Silent Majority,” I am so sorry.  I am deeply sorry if my personal silence on issues has hurt you or driven you away from exploring Christ.

Christianity is NOT supposed to be about finger pointing, judging, hierarchical, patronizing, misogynistic, self-righteous, fault-finding rebuking.

It is not supposed to be about legislative and regulative morality, because remember we have a whole Old Testament full of old laws and rules and limitations that was all about proving to us that we could try and try and try and NEVER be good enough on our own.

Christianity IS about love.

And love is patient and kind.

Love doesn’t give up.

Love doesn’t strut around with a big head.

Love doesn’t force itself and its beliefs on others.

Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, or keep a list of everything we’ve ever done wrong.

Love puts up with anything.

Love trusts God.

Love always looks for the best, never looks back

And Love never gives up.

 

I AFFIRM that without love, we are all bankrupt.

May there be more love out there today than yesterday. . .

Three thieves of joy

Some days I would give just about anything to be five again.  When joy was simple.  If I liked something and we got to do it, I was happy.  If I ate something and I liked it, I was happy.  If my mom gave me a hug or brought me home one of the silly decorative soaps in the shape of a heart or a duck, I was happy.  Life was simpler and joy was just an emotion that I went with, without overthinking it, missing it or twisting it into something else.

So why is it that joy as an adult is so much harder to find and hang onto? For me, I’ve discovered three joy thieves.  If I’m having a crappy day, I can almost always look back and see where I’ve let one of these three get in the way and steal my joy.  See if these hold true for you and what we might be able to do to protect ourselves:

  • Ridiculous expectations

When we spend our lives waiting for our children to skip in from school, with a backpack full of A+ papers and no spaghetti sauce stains on their clothes, we’re going to be disappointed when life looks a lot more like a whiny kid with crumpled papers, God knows what else in addition to spaghetti stains on their white polo shirt (why did I buy THAT??!) and monosyllables answers.

Reality doesn’t typically look like the Disney movie that we all grew up on.  Even if no one in your life was telling you that life was supposed to look like the happy ending to The Princess Bride, there is something inside all of us that thinks that unless things turn out the way exactly the way we planned, we did something wrong.

Being excited about and looking forward to something is fine, but the minute we close ourselves off to new possibilities or experiences because we have decided there is only way something can be for happiness to be achieved, that’s where we get into trouble.  Because life happens.  Right?

In hindsight, some of my absolute favorite memories are those where things went horribly wrong.  We took the bus an hour in the wrong direction in Italy and had to sprint through back alleys and up steep, steep steps, to make our non-refundable tour.  The car broke down and we were stranded at a smelly garage hours from home.  We overslept and missed appointments.  We argued. Someone got sick (again) and we had to stay home.  Our youngest left the house with no shoes (pants, shirt, underwear, you name it) and we didn’t notice until we got where we were going.

Those moments at times have been the source of fights and annoyances, but sometimes, we are smart enough to realize that some of these missed expectations are pretty funny.  And some of this stuff where things go nothing like they were planned are moments that we saw incredible growth in ourselves and in our kids.  Or we discovered that sometimes snuggle time with a sick kid is better than a fancy dinner out in uncomfortable shoes.  Because the things that matter in life aren’t perfect moments, they are the little, imperfect moments that add up to a story that no one else can have because it’s YOUR story.

Which leads me to number two:

  •  Constant Comparison

AKA: the I want that syndrome.  Now, maybe you’re more mature than I am, and maybe you say, “I don’t want to be anyone but me.”  Good for you! However, I’m willing to bet that every once in a while there is a “but” in there.  “I love my body, BUT wouldn’t it be great if I had long athletic legs like so and so” OR  “I love our house, BUT, have you seen the acreage that the smith’s got when they moved?” OR “my car is nice, but the new model has so many more bells and whistles.”

As women, we do this for literally anything and everything.  We compare ourselves and our accomplishments to other professionals, other moms, other wives, other women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, other strangers in the store, other everythings. And if we manage to stop ourselves from doing that, then we have to be careful to not get sucked into the marketing or the shiny object that promises a life just a little bit better than ours IF we go out and buy it.  Our family fell victim to this and it landed us in a boatload of debt with a boatload of things that really didn’t bring us joy the way we thought they would, but that’s a story for another day.

Galatians 6:4-5 “Each one should test their own actions.  Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else; for each one should carry their own load.”

Why would God give us all such unique interests, talents, shapes, sizes, desires, number of hairs on our heads, if all he wanted was a world full of copy-cats?

  • Out of control schedules

We were running late, yet again.  Not because we couldn’t get out the door on time, although that happens, but because we had committed to bringing dinner for the soccer team and I had a meeting that ended roughly 15 minutes before I was supposed to be at school with food 20 minutes away.

Each decision alone didn’t seem like too much, but I had over-committed us and we were just plain out of time.  These are the moments when I inevitably lose it and the voice of Shrek the Ogre comes out of my mouth, or the voice of some crazy person I don’t recognize, but who is in fact me, shrieks loudly for a kid to “sit down,” “stop bothering your sister” or “just shut your pie holes” while sitting in traffic and trying to look like a person who just hasn’t lost her mind.

What’s funny about this phenomenon of losing your mind from over-scheduling is that it stems from feeling like you aren’t in control when it was you who first said yes to too many things.   So often I try to remember to take Lysa Terkeurst’s advice, that the “Best Yes is sometimes a No” but I still find myself saying yes to something else.  There are so many incredible options for hanging with friends, clubs, classes, events, activities, etc. that hit us every single day and we just can’t say yes to them all.   When we do,  we’ve lost control of the whole thing and we’re just being pulled along for the ride.

According to a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology the number one indicator of happiness is autonomy- or the feeling that a person has control over his or her life.  For me, the number one way to feel out of control is to let my schedule take over.  To let the activities and the dinners and the meetings and the errands and the practices run our lives so that there is no margin for quiet time, for study, for reflection, for rest.

We’re do-ers, achievers, conquerors.  We’re driven.  Great.   I’m just finding that if I’m not intentional about what I’m saying yes to that I can be terribly busy, yet never really get anything accomplished. Except maybe a better Shrek impression than the week before.

 

So what about you? When you look back on your own Shrek moments, which thief was it? One of these or something else?  Here’s to more joy in the days to come for our family, and yours.

Perfectionist? Or Chicken?

Start.

Just start.

Right now.

Stop second guessing.

Stop searching for more information and ideas.

JUST START!!!

And on and on goes the internal voice in my mind.  Arguing with itself rather than doing something.

What’s it called when you are so afraid of messing something up that you just don’t start anything at all?  Perfectionism? That’s what my husband likes to call it.  I’ll be honest, I love that way of looking at it.  If you look at it as perfectionism that’s a much lovelier alternative than the ones I typically torture myself with.  For example: Lazy. Chicken.  Not remotely good enough at x, y or z to make it even worth doing.  Don’t have the resources needed (time, money, tools, space.)  Haven’t done enough research on whatever it is to truly be making an informed decision, step, product, etc. Too old to start something new.  Too young to be taken seriously. . .

But these are all lies told by the crazy voice inside my head.  Does anyone else have that crazy voice in there?

For as almost as far back as I can remember, I couldn’t get enough of the Impressionistic painters of France- Monet, Renoir, Degas.  Janet, my stepmom, had several prints around our house growing up and I loved just staring at them before I knew who they were or what their art was called.  My bedroom, and later my dorm room and first apartments were covered with prints I had collected by them. Discovering them unlocked my passion for Paris and France and the pursuit of the joie de vivre they had mastered.  Painters who didn’t attempt to make their paintings a perfect reflection of the world around them, instead they tried to capture a feeling, a tone, an impression of a place.  Painters who were rejected by the traditional schools and galleries of their time.  Painters who seemed to revel in breaking the rules of their day and creating something that told a bigger story.

Yet somewhere along the lines, I stopped appreciating the way their art made me feel and dream and instead looked for pieces whose artists’ skill was evident in the precise way they captured reality, almost as if they were photographs rather than paintings. . . incredible in themselves, absolutely, but I’ve missed the joy of letting a piece take you into a different world.  A world where edges are blurred and even a stack of hay outside a barn tells a story.  And I’m tired of holding everything to standards of perfection that are unattainable and unnecessary.

Edouard Manet, the French artist whose boundary pushing work set the stage for Impressionism once said this:  “It is not enough to know your craft – you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us imagination is worth far more.”

Sometimes I think that as an adult we get caught up in the “science” part of adulthood.  By science I mean that there are certain ways to do things, certain paths, steps, precise measurements one must follow to get from Point A to Point B and if you didn’t bother taking that exact path then you shouldn’t logically expect to ever be able to reach Point B.  The mixture is contaminated, the blend is off and instead of making rubber, you’ve made slime.  Had Manet not continued to pursue art the way he wanted to create, had he listened to the voice of his instructor who called his work an “abomination,” had he simply accepted the rejection of his works and not protested to the King, the Salon des Refuses ( “the exhibition of rejects”) that became the launching pad of Impressionism and Modern Art might never have been.  Had Manet kept on trying to fit into the mold, had he stopped learning and growing after he left the Academy, conceivably there may not be the rainbow of art and artists we have today.  Impressionism might not seem like a far stretch from reality compared to the abstract artwork of Picasso, Dali or Pollock, but it was the steps those Impressionistic artists took that were the pebbles that started the avalanche of creativity and exploration for future generations of artists.

What if Manet had just not started because he didn’t think he was good enough?  What if Manet had refused to pick up a brush because he knew his art wouldn’t look like those he’d seen in the museums? What if Manet hadn’t been brave enough to keep doing what he loved despite the disdain of his mentors and teachers?

Here and now I’m making a vow to stop letting myself off the hook with excuses for why I just can’t start or shouldn’t do something, because the truth is,  if God puts something on my (or your) heart, he is going to provide the doors and opportunities to walk towards to discover the tools needed to do it.  Hebrews 13:21 reminds us that God will “equip you with every good thing for doing his will.”  Does God’s will always appear perfect to the world? Of course not.  That’s why Jesus dying on the cross seemed like a victory for Satan for three days.  It might be hard, it might take more time than makes any sense at all, it might take a failure or three, it might look like a blurry picture or an abomination to some out there, but it might just look like the start of something infinitely bigger than you could have imagined.

So what do you need to start today? What voice do you need to tell to be quiet? What idea of perfectionism or impossible standard do you keep hanging onto for yourself that’s holding you back from making/doing/being something incredible? Today, let’s quiet those excuses, be brave and just get started . . .

 

 

 

 

Title art:  “Impression, Sunrise”  Claude Monet

 

 

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Doing Nothing

“What are we going to do today mommy?” my eight-year-old asked me after we had just returned from several hours up at the farm a few miles from our house.  Apparently the time we spent exploring the farm stand, riding the dusty tractor over the pitted fields and walking among the blueberry bushes to find the blueberries that were ripe, not the pinkish blue ones that would make your cheeks suck in from the sour, until we filled our buckets full enough to make not only blueberry muffins, but also blueberry pancakes, fruit pizza, cobbler, popsicles and pretty much anything we could ever think of from blueberries does not count as “doing” anything in his eyes.  I wish that I could say that was an anomaly, that my kids always appreciated all our adventures, big and small, but with three ranging in age from 11 to five, that rarely happens.  There is always at least one who is bored or embarrassed or left out or too short or tired or breaking out in some kind of rash. . . but I digress, rashes aren’t what I’m talking about today.

A month ago, I would have taken the “what are we going to do today” question as an indictment that I was doing a crappy job of this new-to-me stay at home mom thing.  I would have quickly scrambled to think up something else to fill the rest of our summer day, but honey, we are 34 days into summer break and a whole 40 days into the stay at home mom/student/aspiring writer thing and I’m proud to say that I have LEARNED something and mommy don’t play that anymore. Honestly, 34 days in and I’m just plain over “fun-scheduling” my kids.  We are now into new, beautiful territory called “doing nothing.”  Inevitably what happens when we “fun schedule” all day long is that we end up with kids who don’t see a half day trip to a farm as something, who don’t know how to entertain themselves and who are, quite frankly, a little boring and a whole lot spoiled.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the amusement park and the pool and the movies, maybe even more than they do, but it’s in the downtime of doing nothing that I really get to see who they are.  And low and behold, psychologists say that it’s in the downtime that they get to discover who they are and stretch and grow the creativity muscles that they’ll need later in life*.

It’s in those doing nothing afternoons that they build a fort that takes up most of my living room, with special rooms and cubbies inside that become submarines and school buses and spaceships where epic Star Wars battles take place.  It’s in those unplanned moments that bugs, frogs and worms are caught, and teeny tiny homes are built for them, and one discovers that bugs might need real food and water and AIR to survive.  When quiet humming gradually turns into ridiculously loud silly songs and new recipes for “slime” are discovered.  When shoe boxes are turned into Lego people apartments, toilet paper rolls become binoculars and suddenly the kids burst out with the names of all the different birds that have made our yard their home this year after they repeatedly ignored me every time I exclaimed: “look! A red headed Finch!”

It’s in that oasis of doing nothing afternoons that time seems to stretch on.  When one hour feels like three.  When the frantic pace of the world outside doesn’t seem to have its hold on us anymore.  And we can think a little.  Not react, not go, just think.  For me as well, it’s in those moments that I appreciate the uniqueness of my kids, the truth of God’s word that tells us, “we have different gifts, according to the grace given to us.” (Romans 12:6) I appreciate the way that Audrey can take bottles and boxes and garbage and make it into something like a work of art. . . how Aaden’s natural curiosity leads him to take things apart, devour books and ask question after question. . . how Avery creates worlds of adventures within his head that we see only a little of and mainly just hear the sound effects to. . . these things aren’t visible when we are constantly on the go, when we are running from one activity to the next, when we are rushing to fit in everything that everyone else seems to be doing.

So, at least for a little while, I don’t care if my kids are “bored” and I don’t care if they lay in the grass staring at the clouds or on the living room floor watching the ceiling fan go around and around like poor, sad wretches.  Opportunities to dream and create are fleeting and being stolen more and more by the pace of this world and the availability of information and technology.  There will be time for running, time for schedules, deadlines, practices, due dates and milestones soon enough.  There will never be another summer when they are 11, 8 and 5 and if I can stretch an afternoon out into adventures that take them a lot further away than the farm up the road, I won’t apologize or miss out on it by “fun-scheduling” every moment of our day.  Not anymore.  Or at least not until Day 35. . .

 

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*Researchers Karen Gasper and Brianna Middlewood, of Pennsylvania State University, found that constructively bored individuals seek out and engage in satisfying activities—much like happy people do.  Read their findings here here:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103113002205

It’s “ok” to not be “ok” sometimes

A birthday letter to my almost 11 year old.

 

Dear Audrey,

How in the world are you turning 11 in just a few days?  I feel like it was just yesterday that I was pregnant with you, dreaming about what you’d be like when we finally got to meet you, painting your very purple nursery, washing tiny little clothes that ended up being too big for you because you were so little when you were born, reading every parenting book I could find so that I could be the perfect mom for you.  And then you made your way into the world with a 40+ hour labor that ended with perhaps the last time in modern medicine that forceps were used.  You emerged dramatically, with the cord around your neck, tiny, a little bruised from the forceps, but perfect.  And even though I read all those books and grew up babysitting your Aunt and all the neighborhood kids, I was clueless about being a mom.   I couldn’t believe they’d just let us take you home, in our car, by ourselves.  Suddenly this world that I had lived in for 27 years was a whole lot scarier.  Even though I had gained this incredible, beautiful baby girl, I lost a little bit of light.  I lived in fear of messing you up, of breaking you, of ruining you.  In hindsight, I had something pretty scary called postpartum depression, but when you were born people weren’t so open about things like that and for me to admit that I had something like that, or that I needed help? Oh that wasn’t going to happen.  That might be my biggest regret of your first year.  Not all the mess I created with holding you constantly or rocking you to sleep every night, but the darkness that I let myself stay in because I was too proud and terrified to put into words what I was feeling.  And now, as you are weeks away from middle school, I think what I most want to make sure that you know is that it’s sometimes ok to not be ok. But mostly that it’s ok to ask for help.  Middle school is big stuff.  It’s new classes and concepts and schoolwork that maybe you won’t finish before almost everyone else in your class like last year.  It’s new emotions and periods and growth spurts, feet that suddenly feel like clown feet and hands that knock over glasses like you’re a two year old.  It’s eye rolling and one word answers.  But it can also be deeper, truer friendships, bedtime heart to hearts with your mom, conquering the “designed to kill people” water slides, setting BIG goals and hitting them.  It’s also a time to hang tight to the truths about who you are.  There will be friends who are suddenly boy crazy or who want to try things that you know don’t feel right, and it will be hard to say no to being a part of it all.  I know, because believe it or not, I was a middle schooler once too.  I made some poor decisions.  I was lucky because I had a mom I could call and who cheered me on every day after school and a step mom who loved me and let me cry about boys or grades, but sometimes even that wasn’t enough.  I didn’t always share what was going on because I wanted to be the good girl, the one who didn’t bother or worry and unfortunately I carried that habit into adulthood.  I see that part of me in you, sweet Audrey,  but you have something that I didn’t: Jesus.  For me, without Jesus, it was too easy to listen to what the world had to say about who I was or who I was supposed to be.  And the world is oh so wrong more often than not.  So here’s what I want you to remember, on those days when you aren’t ok and you just can’t bring yourself to ask for help just yet, and you don’t feel like talking to me, or your dad.  On days that you feel alone and like no one understands you, know these truths:

God’s love for you will never change.  God made you and God doesn’t make mistakes.  He knows you better than anyone and he knows your thoughts before you speak them. You are adopted and redeemed through your faith in Jesus and there is nothing that you can do that will take that away.  Period.

Don’t be afraid to try & fail.   Mistakes are opportunities for growing.  My biggest regrets in life are not the things that I tried and failed at doing, they are the things that I was too chicken to try.  Sometimes those failures are the stepping stones to incredible success.  Learn from everything.  You’re already so much braver than I was at your age; how you’ve stepped into theater this year, how you push through tough subjects and projects.  We are so proud.  Keep having courage.

God’s plan for Audrey doesn’t look like God’s plan for Brooklyn, or Lynlee or Madison or Adrian or Eric.  Listen to this one closely.  You are unique.  You are one of a kind.  We’ve talked about this verse before, but it’s worth repeating.  “For your created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139:13-14.  God didn’t make an army of clones like they did in Star Wars.  He made each and every single person unique.   I believe that the Holy Spirit decides what gifts to give to us. And get this, they aren’t all the same.  Rest in knowing that if you are not like everyone else at times that it’s a really good thing.

Real love does not look like it does on Liv & Maddie.  This one may be a few more years off for you, but it’s good to learn now.  Real love is not a romantic comedy or a drama.  Real love should always make you feel safe, valued and equal. This goes for both romantic love and friendship love.  Never settle for anything less.   “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Happy Birthday Munchkin, I love you.

Mom

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Happy Mother’s Day?

I’m not sure about other moms out there, but on a typical Mother’s Day morning, I sleep in, waking up to a quiet house, sun streaming in and the birds chirping outside, the smell of coffee and freshly made crepes in the air.  My precious children ever so gently knock and walk in, fully dressed, hair combed, teeth thoroughly brushed, smiling, holding hands and carrying a tray with breakfast in bed and home-made Mother’s Day presents . . .

OK, I just can’t. . .

I’m kidding of course.  Reality is oh so much messier, but oh so much more fun. Some years I truly have been spoiled with breakfast in bed but it’s typically served before 6 am and even our Mother’s Day mornings usually look a lot like more like the scene from Home Alone when everyone overslept and they nearly missed their flight, clothes flying, chaos reigning and people yelling over lost socks. . . If I’m honest, I wouldn’t really have it any other way . . . As a mom, I’m grateful for days like today where I am reminded to slow down and appreciate the beauty in our chaos.

But for as much joy as this time of year elicits for many, there are just as many of my friends & family that struggle on Mother’s Day.  I know that out there, smiling at me at the grocery store, sitting next to me at church, driving by with the dark sunglasses on, are:

  • women who have lost children, to cancer, to unexpected tragedy, to lives cut short,
  • women & men who have lost their moms,
  • women who want nothing more than to hear “I’m proud of you” from a mom or step mom who isn’t there anymore or just can’t seem to say it,
  • there are single mom’s who struggle to get through each day because they’re doing it alone,
  • mom’s who just want to stay in bed,
  • mom’s whose kids walked away from God and everything they spent a lifetime teaching them,
  • moms who don’t know what to do about the diagnosis or how their expectations of being a mom couldn’t be further from reality
  • women who have cried over miscarriages and negative pregnancy tests,
  • moms who LOVE their little blessings with all their might, but who sometimes daydream about running away, so maybe they could go to the bathroom alone FOR ONCE IN THEIR LIVES
  • women who aren’t sure if having a husband or a family will ever be a part of their story

I wish I had a magic wand like the good fairies from Sleeping Beauty, where I could wave it and heal the hurt . . .

I don’t . . .

But God does.  And it came in the form of his son, who he sent to this earth, to live a perfect life and die on a cross for us, so that we can have hope for a life beyond this one.

Here’s the thing, Jesus knew this world was hard.  HE LIVED HERE.  He lost his earthly father, he lived a life of ridicule and backbreaking work.  He died a criminal’s death on a cross;  a punishment designed to humiliate and draw out death in the most painful way possible.  He reminded us though, before his death: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

This world is temporary, these trials are temporary, these hurts are temporary, if our hope is in Jesus.  It’s days like these, where life is real and raw, where we celebrate the joys, but we ache with our loved ones who are hurting, that we are reminded just how fallen a world we live in.  These heartaches and hurt were never God’s design.  He mourns with us and longs for the day when we are united with him and all is made right again.  Today, I’m thankful for the little joys, the 5:55 am breakfast in bed, the hugs of my incredibly talented at fighting kids, and the knowledge that this world, with all the good, the bad and the ugly? This world is NOT MY HOME.

We’re ready for you Jesus, take us home.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

 

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A perfect fit

For 32 years,  over and over again I felt God tugging at my heart, desiring to fill the hole there that wasn’t shaped like any other thing I understood or knew.  And every single time I got enough nerve to walk into a church I felt like a fish out of water. I didn’t understand the “rules,” I didn’t know why we recited prayers or repeated certain words, or stood up, or sat down, or knelt on pews, or at the altar. I looked around and saw people who didn’t seem to struggle with drinking, cursing, doubts, jealousy, anger, sexuality, selfish ambition and 1000 other things I myself struggled with. I felt like an orphan looking in from the outside at a family laughing around a dinner table with a home cooked meal. I thought that if I kept going to whatever church that was, that it was just a matter of time that they would figure out I wasn’t really good enough and they’d maybe let me stay, but they’d never really accept me. . .
And then one day, I heard a woman teach on Paul. Paul who had been Saul. A man who spent his whole existence persecuting Christians himself and standing by watching Christians be murdered. A man who was redeemed and transformed into one of God’s most incredible warriors and teachers of the good news of Jesus. And I thought, if Paul was good enough, maybe, just maybe, I am too. Maybe it wasn’t too late for me. I started to understand grace and the gift it is because I don’t deserve it and no one does. I started to look around and see how so many people were sitting in those rows next to me who had no clue what was going on and who were massively flawed and struggling. I started to realize that it wasn’t about the church building or fitting in, it was about a God who loved so much that he gave his only Son.  I heard a Pastor talk about his temper and another talk about their doubts. I was taught the truth of God’s word from women who didn’t pretend to have it all together, but who openly shared their imperfections and innermost desires.
And I was scared, and unsure, but one day it clicked, that God wanted ME.  He wanted to fill that God shaped hole in my heart.  He wanted me with all my doubts and issues and flaws.  And it rocked my world. And it changed my life & my marriage & my kids lives & hopefully, their eternities. And I still struggle with 1000 different things, but each day I get to start fresh, to try to walk a little closer to God, because I know that the Grace that God extends me through Jesus covers it ALL.  And I want that for literally every person I know, every person I love, every person I call family, meet, see, pass by in a car, hear talking on the radio, disagree with about anything and everything, remember from elementary school, buy groceries from. Every. Single. One.  Because it’s theirs for the taking too.
“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call” Acts 2:39




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Hope

While I love seeing God’s creativity throughout every season, Spring is absolutely, hands down, my favorite time of the year.  I love waking up every morning and seeing what new things are coming up from the ground and what buds are appearing on the trees.  I walk around our yard and dig around in the flower beds for the tops of perennials and bulbs popping up.  I check our birdhouses and trees for the new nests.  Marty and I strategize about what plants need to be split and where to move them or what new flower bed to start; about what annuals we should try this year and what didn’t work the year before.  I love being able to throw open the doors and pull up the windows and let the breeze blow through the house.  I love the smell of dirt in the air.  I love pulling up the weeds and spending whatever time I have pruning and trimming back bushes.  I even love the birds that have come north and start chirping way too early in the morning just as the sun is coming up.

I’m sure I lost about 85% of you at “dig around in flower beds” and many of you are probably thinking, “wow, I didn’t realize she was 115 years old,” but it’s more than just being a plant nerd, I think spring just represents for me the possibility of new life and fresh starts.  Yes, whatever we’ve accomplished this year, whatever we’ve conquered, whatever darkness we’ve left behind, those are to be celebrated and praised. God’s work in us, and through us.  However, I don’t believe we are designed to rest on what we have accomplished, but to keep our eyes fixed forward and up; to keep our ears and hearts open to where He wants to take us.  THIS year, THIS season, THIS phase.

I’ve struggled with contentment my entire life, and frequently held back from pursuing things because I felt like I should just be happy where I am. Yet lately, I’m starting to appreciate that a huge part of what I perceive as discontent actually comes from God.  I’m starting to appreciate that it’s not such a bad thing to be ready and excited for what comes next.  I’m not talking contentment with material things, things like clothes and houses and cars, I’m talking contentment with the things that truly mean something, like the state of my marriage and friendships, my children’s relationships with Jesus, what I DO with the gifts and skills that God gave me.

I want to climb that mountain, tame that lion, cross that finish line. Yes! Yes! Do those things. Celebrate those things!  But then I’m ready to keep going.   I’m ready to be done with beating myself up for being ready to tackle the next adventure.  The idea that there is a more beautiful version of myself, a more godly version, a more patient version, a BRAVER version out there just waiting to make its appearance; that is hope.  So yea, spring is dirt and flowers and baby birds and me digging around in flower beds.  And hope.  So, here’s to spring, to making all things new, to starting fresh, and to never settling for last year’s adventure.  Here’s to hope.