Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 10- Life on the Table

It's Christmas Eve!  I heart Christmas Eve!

This really doesn't have much to do with Christmas Eve, but I wanted to share it anyways.  Last night Ryan and I had a really great conversation.  One of those conversations that isn't the least bit transactional (ie: you get the baby, I'll make dinner, you let the dog out, etc...) but totally real and deep. And I was sharing some of the things that I have been learning and some areas that God is stretching me in.

One of them being this whole taking off the masks and realizing just how hindering my insecurity has been.  It's affected my friendships, jobs I've had and my marriage.  But I'm experiencing some new found freedom to be me and I am loving it.  This blogging journey has been part of God working on me.

I used to be too scared to write.  My insecurity and fear held me back.  But thankfully, God is not letting me stay there in that place.  My friend Emilie, she's 11, is sometimes held back by fear.  It's totally not logical when you know her, and I've known her most of her life, because she's beautiful and sweet and funny.  Like, really funny.  Not just funny for an 11 year old.

I see a lot of me in her in that I am held back by fear.  But Emilie's mom tells her, "Don't leave life on the table."  Emilie told me that one day- that her mom tells her that.  She said it with a sigh, in a total 11 going on 16 kind of way.  And do you know what?  I needed to hear it.  I am guilty of leaving life on the table.  Of not taking risks.  Of letting fear win.

Do you know who didn't leave life on the table?  Peter.  Peter was one of Jesus' closest disciples.  He was in the BFF category not just the friends at school category.  Remember when Jesus came walking up to the boat that the disciples were in on the water.  It was Peter that stepped out of the boat.  Yep, fear did get to him and he started to sink.  But none of the other disciples even had the nerve to step out of that boat.  And after Jesus died and rose again Peter started to really not leave life on the table.  He lived so fully for Christ that when he was sentenced to death for being a Christ follower he refused to be crucified like Jesus did.  He believed himself to be unworthy so he was crucified upside down.

I don't know if you let fear hold you back at all.  If you do, trust me, I get it.  But I would encourage you today to take a risk.  To not hold back in loving God and loving others.  To give fully of yourself and to be fully present wherever you are.  And dear one, today, don't leave life on the table.  No one benefits from that.

** I just wanted to add a quick note about the firefighters that were shot today as they arrived on the scene of a house and car fire in my hometown of Webster, NY.  Two lost their lives today and two are in the hospital.  I am praying for them and for their families.  But I wanted to reiterate that in today's society it is so very easy to let fear win.  Whether it's insecurity type of fear or evil in this world type of fear.  Don't let fear win.  Keep loving to the fullest and let's overcome evil with good.**

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 9 Worth it All

The lyrics to one of my all time favorite worship songs go something like this:

When I'm there in Your glorious presence
Every knee is bowed before You
Hear the sound of heaven singing
You are worth it all
All the saints cry Holy Holy
Angels singing worthy worthy
Forever I will shout Your praises
You are worth it all

I let go of all I have
Just to have all of You
And no matter what the cost
I will follow You

Jesus, everything I've lost
I have found in You
When I finally reach the end I'll say

You are worth it all
You are worth it all

We sang this in church today.  I wanted to shout it.  I wanted to kneel down and whisper it because with every fiber of my being I believe it to be true.  It's an easy song to sing when I'm on a mountain top, when life is pretty and the road is easy.  It's not as easy a song to sing when I'm walking through the fire, crossing the river or standing in the valley.  It's harder to sing when my heart hurts but it doesn't make it any less true.

I thought of my friend Kristie who is currently battling cancer.  It's been a long battle.  It's been a tiring battle.  And I thought of her very best friend, Laura, who passed away from cancer one year ago, Saturday, December 22nd.  And I cried and sang and praised God through my tears.  

There are a few thoughts I want to get out and since it's late, and I am tired I am not promising beautiful writing.  But, as always, I promise to be real.  Here goes...

1)  If the saints who have gone before us could tell us just one thing what would they say?  If they had limited time and could only share a brief message what would they choose to communicate?  I think they might tell us to keep going.  No matter what this life takes from you, or how overwhelmed you are with your road, the evil in this world or the length of the battle you are in.  Keep going.  Jesus is worth it, no matter the cost.

2)  An entire church congregation was belting out the lyrics, "You are worth it all," and I couldn't help but think that God sings that over us.  The entire Bible is a testimony of that.  John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  Jesus left his throne next to the Father.  He came to be born as a human, in a manger, to a virgin and live on this earth.  He was God with skin on.  And then after sacrificing everything to do just that He gave up all he had, his life, to die in our place.  To die the death of a criminal only to be raised again.  And I believe as we sang today He was saying right back, You are worth it all, to us.

3)   I love the verse in the song that says, "Jesus everything I've lost has been found in you."  I love it even though it's hard for me to put into words the extent of just how true that is.  But here is an example.  I grew up without a dad.  There was a dad hole in my heart.  I thought for the longest time that if the right guy loved me then that hole would be filled.  But no guy ever loved me completely.  Then I thought if I had a father figure that the hole would be filled.  But that wasn't true either.  Maybe if I forgave my own father for never wanting anything to do with me, maybe if I show up on his doorstep and forgive him then, then, I will be whole.  

I did that.  I showed up at his doorstep.  He wasn't home.  I did forgive him.  The hole was still there.  Then one day I realized that I had to surrender that empty piece of me.  I had been holding onto it for a long time.  And I clearly could not fill it.  I had to let it go.  Do you know what happened?  My father hole wasn't taken away.  It was filled.  The God of the universe, my Heavenly Father, filled that dad shaped hole.  What I had lost was found in Christ.  

That's what He does.  It is what He longs to do.  We've all experienced loss of some sort.  We have all had to let go of someone or something.  There was a time in my life when I felt like I knew loss better than anything else.  And I want to tell you that there is hope.  There is healing.  There is wholeness again.  But it's not in another earthly person or a thing.  It's in Christ.  And I look back on all of that and I can honestly say, He's worth it all.

Peace to you, sweet ones.  Here's the link to see Benji & Jenna Cowart perform Worth it All.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 8 All for an Egg

Right now I am exhausted.  Not tired.  Exhausted.  But I skipped writing yesterday so I know I need to sit here tonight and pound this out.  I'm not just lack of sleep tired, but tired from listening to a baby cry all day.  All. Day.  ALL. DAY.

The other day when I ran to Tops (not my favorite grocery store) to get some eggs I had an embarrassing moment in the check out line when the cashier had to stop the line to call the dairy department and ask a question.  I was holding up the line in a very busy store.  

To make me feel even more embarrassed was the fact that I was holding up the line because they had to ask a question about the WIC check I was using, specifically, about a brand of soy milk.  It was incredibly humbling to be standing in this line, cashier light flashing, holding onto my WIC check (that I would prefer to not have to rely on) with the customer service lead looking annoyed.  I could feel my face start to get hot.

It turns out that Tops does not carry soy milk that is acceptable with WIC.  And the rules are that you have to get everything on the check or nothing.  So, I stood there apologizing for not being able to get the groceries.  I fumbled with my wallet and packed up my receipt for the two things I was buying not covered by WIC and I pushed my little cart with my sleeping baby in it away.  As I got to the door to walk out I realized that the entire reason I dragged Sully to the store was to get eggs and I did not have them.  The tears streamed down my hot face as I looked at my sleeping baby, then back to the lines of people and finally to my near empty cart.  

I don't know why I had panicked and forgotten the eggs.  Oh, wait,  yes I do.  Because I was embarrassed.  I felt like that girl.  You know the one.  The one with the baby that shouldn't have gotten pregnant if she can't afford to take care of him without assistance.  The girl who clearly doesn't have her act together and is probably not married.  The girl who still lives with her mom in an apartment who loves her baby but still loves to party and chase after guys.  The girl who... fill in the blank.  

Even though none of those things are true about me in that moment I felt them.  In that moment I realized how I have thought those very things about other women who have stood in that position before.  I am so sorry I ever thought those things.  Sometimes, people just need a little help.  Sometimes, people just need a little compassion whether what I typed before is true or not.

I went back in the line I had waited in and with tear stained cheeks I tried to smile at the cashier.  I told her that I just needed to get the eggs I had to leave before.  She rang me out and I mustered another smile.  I walked to my car and the tears flowed.  

As I unloaded the bag of eggs into my car and shut the door I turned back to the cart and my sleeping baby.  My plan was to push the cart back to the cart coral and then carry sully's baby carrier, load him in, and drive home.  As I went to push the cart around the median the baby carrier began to fall.  I threw out my hand and grabbed it.  It was all but a split second but it felt like life was moving in slow motion.  Sully looked at me and smiled and let out a little baby giggle as if to say, "That was fun! Again!"  I lost it.  I wept.  Right there in the Tops parking lot.  I sobbed.  

And as I cried out my thanks to God for allowing me to catch my precious little boy I saw my focus shift from insecurity to praise.  From me to Jesus.  From hurt to gratitude.  I loaded Sully in the car and the ride home I praised God through my tears.  

It's funny what it takes sometimes to bring us back to what matters most.  It's funny how any other day yes, I would have been grateful that I didn't drop my baby, but after walking through those difficult moments in Tops not only was I grateful but I was refocused and humbled in the good way.  Not in the, "every one's looking at me and judging me," sort of way.  But the, "life isn't about me and God is bigger and loves me even though I don't deserve it kind of way."  

God loves you, too.  Choose today to lay your insecurity, your hurt and yourself before Him and let Him replace it with gratitude and praise.  He's crazy about you!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 7- Fairness

"It's not fair!"  Have you ever said those words?  I've muttered them.  I've yelled them and I've most definitely thought them.  I've said them to others and I've said them to God.  I want to share with you my latest unfair moment and then share with you how God graciously responded.

Growing up I was taught that one should go to college.  Going to college was never not an option for me.  And the teaching went something like this:  you go to college and then you get a good job.  I remember clearly that chain of thought.  It was not, go to college, have a great 4 years and then struggle for the rest of your life here on earth.  I'm pretty sure I would have remembered that.

So, I went to college.  I had a great four five years.  I liked college so much I decided to try out three different schools!  I met my husband and fell in love.  I got involved in a campus ministry.  I made some really fun friends.  Then I graduated and no one was knocking down my door to hire me.  I did actually work 25-30 hours a week my last year in college at a telecommunication and utility consulting firm (it sounds a lot fancier than it was- but I had a great boss and I really enjoyed the people I worked with).  But it wasn't the job I had dreamed of and I left the University at Buffalo still thinking that you go to college and then get a good job.

Since college I've had many a job.  I've worked as a barista and an HR assistant and everything in between.   Then I got pregnant.  And I am now a stay at home mama.  I love it.  Every day is the hardest day.  But I love, love, love it.  However, it's hard financially.  I had a conversation the other day with God about how it's not fair that some people just seem to prosper whatever they do and it always seems like we're struggling to just make ends meet and get by.  It's not fair.  I went to college.  Ryan went to college.  Shouldn't we be past the point of this struggling crap?

After I threw my little hissy fit God's gentle voice spoke over my heart, "This is what I have for you.  I've chosen you to walk this path.  It's not for everyone, but it's for you, right now.  Trust me."  Ooooohhhh.  Chosen, eh?  Oh boy.

I processed that for a while.  Here's what I can share with you about it.  I've recognized the privilege of the path that Ryan and I are walking right now- the path where every month we have to trust God to make ends meet.  While it's not always joyous and at times really hard, it's a path where God continually shows up.  It's a path that is stretching me to trust God more and the more I trust it seems the more He just keeps showing up and somehow the closeness of God trumps the difficulty of this path.  Most days, anyways.

I don't know what lot is yours- what path God is leading you down that He's selected for you.  Some paths are cushy and beautiful filled with beautiful things and beautiful people.  They are easy on the eyes and easy on the soul.  Some paths are hard and strenuous.  Some paths are painful.  If you have read some of my previous blog posts you know that I have a very dear friend that has cancer.  That is the path she's walking down right now and she daily has to choose joy because it's not abundant on her path.  Cancer doesn't reap joy.  Cancer isn't nice to look at.  It's hard and strenuous and filled with both physical pain and emotional pain.  But a relationship with Christ, no matter the path, reaps joy.  And in the midst of the hardness of one's path, the goodness of God, His love and His closeness can trump all the other things.

A relationship with Christ doesn't diminish the hard things.  It just refocuses us on what really matters-on what is eternal- that this life will pass and what isn't made right this side of heaven will be made right on the other side of heaven.  God never promised a cushy, prosperous life filled with great and beautiful things.  He never promised us that we'd walk this earth without pain.  In fact, in Philippians 3:10 Paul writes, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him in his death...".  The truth is God uses suffering in our lives.  When we suffer we become more and more like Christ.  Suffering is the hottest fire we can be submerged in to be refined and it doesn't go to waste.

Whatever you deem unfair in life right now, you might not be wrong.  You may even throw a holy hissy fit complete with fists raised to heaven.  I've been there.  I'm with you.  But be encouraged that while we suffer this side of heaven the promise is that we will never walk alone.  God is with you.  So, release that fiery fist of rage and let the God of the universe take hold of it and lead you down the path He has for you.  Whatever your lot, whatever mine, let our hearts proclaim that God is good and that we trust Him.

Be blessed tonight.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 6 Tired and not deep

Because I am a rule follower I had to go back to my first post and re-read what I wrote in order to be sure I was following my own rules with today's post.  Totally ridiculous, I know.  But I said I would write about whatever was really going on.

So, here is what is really going on:  I am tired.  Not emotionally tired just physically tired.  And I don't have anything deep and lovely to share today.  I think that's part of being real.  I have brain  farts flatulence  squeaky petes (ok, really quick, we are trying to decide what to call farts since we have a kid now.  I feel like little ones shouldn't say, "fart" and Ryan thinks "toot" is lame.  So we are feeling out the term "Squeaky Pete."  Hopefully Sully won't have any friends named Pete.  And yes, you can use it as a verb- I Squeaky Peted.).  I have days when my brain barely turns on.  I mean, I just typed an entire paragraph about flatulence.

Today was one of those days.  I woke up tired.  I baked cookies and decorated them while I was tired.  I went to the Christmas production at church and was tired.  I had dinner with a great friend and I was tired.  I got home and realized that I just don't have much to say.

So, this is my lack of depth list of fun things from today:

  • I was genuinely excited to watch parts of the Patriots vs. 49ers game because I can't stand the Patriots. I can't stand them to the point where I get angry when I watch them and they are winning and I'm not even a huge football fan.
  • I decorated more cookies today.  Half way through I lost steam and Ryan had to finish.
  • I saw "America's Got Christmas" at the Chapel with Lauren and I had a great time
  • Shout out to Lauren who starts a new chapter in her life tomorrow!  You rock, Lauren!  
  • I dug out gifts for two white elephant parties this week from my basement
So, there it is.  Totally not deep at all.  But totally real.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 5 conflict happens

Tonight will be quick because I am exhausted after a long day of making cookies, decorating cookies with friends and then Christmas shopping.

Conflict happens.  I hate conflict.  I am sure most people do.  But it happens and it happened tonight.  It's so easy to look at people's live through the lens of social media and think that not only do they have it all together but that their relationships have it all together.  I do this all the time.  So, the mask that I'm taking off tonight is the, "I have the perfect marriage," one.

The cookies I decorated on top and Ryan's on the bottom
We had our first date night in about a month and we were both so looking forward to it.  Dinner and Christmas shopping while my in-laws watched the baby.  And literally five minutes into dinner we got into a disagreement.  He said something.  I took it the wrong way.  I shut down (as I usually do).  We drove to the mall in silence.  And at about the moment I realized this was absolutely ridiculous and I overreacted he grabbed my hand.  A small gesture but it meant so much.  And we enjoyed each other's company the rest of the night.  I had to ask forgiveness for being a brat.  He forgave me and we moved on.

I love my husband.  He is patient with me and kind.  He's gentle, thoughtful and most of the time very considerate.  He's fun and he has always made me feel beautiful and loved.  But he's not perfect.  And I'm not perfect.  And while we have a good marriage, it's not perfect either.  There are times when I want it to come off that way but that's my insecurity rearing it's ugly head.  We fight.  We bicker. But at the end of the day, he's mine and I love him.

I don't know what masks you wear.  Maybe you wear the, "I have a perfect marriage," mask.  Maybe you don't.  Maybe you are ready to take them off and maybe you aren't.  It's ok either way.  Knowing is half the battle.  Be encouraged today that you are not alone and if there is a struggle in your life, whether it's your marriage or another relationship please know that 1) God knows and He longs for you to invite Him into it- to ask Him to show up in a mighty way.  Surrender to Him- there's nothing like His love poured out in your life and 2) it doesn't define you.  It may be a piece of you or who you are but you are more.  More than your hurts.  More than your scars.  More than your talents, skills, abilities and success.  Learn to be ok with who you are for God created you and formed you and He knows your heart.  Choose today to be real and live authentically.

Lots of love to you, sweet one that actually takes time to read this- my silly thoughts on life.  Your comments and encouragement have lifted my spirits and refreshed my soul these past few days and for that and for you I am incredibly grateful.  Until tomorrow...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 4 Broken Heart

Tonight's post isn't so much about me or a mask.  I wanted to take a moment and pour out my heart today in light of the tragedy that happened in Newtown, Connecticut.

I've thought a lot about what I want to say and I keep going back to when I was 10 years old and my mother was murdered by three young men.  Words didn't mean much then.  I don't remember anything anyone said.

What I remember is how people loved me.  How my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Rigillo, came over to my house and brought me a stuffed bear and sat at our kitchen table and visited.  I remember how my sweet group of friends kept inviting me over to play and have sleep overs and invited me into their brownie troop.  I remember how my best friend's family took me overnight every Friday and treated me like I was one of their kids.  Actions have, and always will, speak louder than words.

I don't know how to love on the families and the community that has been so affected by this tragedy except to pray for them.

Lord God,
I can't even imagine how much your heart is breaking today because I know so well that when we cry you cry, too.  When your kids hurt, you hurt, too.  But you are bigger than the hurt and you are bigger than  this tragedy and so I am asking you to comfort the parents and loved ones of the people that died today.  Your word says that you are the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles.  Comfort them.  Pour out your mercy and your grace on them.  Lord don't hold back your love.  Thank you that your word also tells us that just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives that so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  Heal these broken hearts and bind up their wounds.  Bring this community together to love one another, to help one another and let them know that You have not forsaken them or abandoned them.  Lord, when we call on you you promise to answer.  Draw near to them tonight and answer their cries.  Give them hope the way only you can.  You bring light to even the darkest places and peace in the midst of chaos.  Praise you for that.  Thank you that you love us.  Thank you that you comfort us.  Thank you that you are sovereign and Almighty and that you are good even when life hurts.  Even when our hearts are broken, you are still good.  Lavish your goodness and your love in Newtown, CT.  And Lord, be with the families in Oregon that have just walked through this as well.  Show up in a mighty way and love on them.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 3- Idolatry

A friend of the family was over tonight and he mentioned that my posts are long.  So, I'm keeping it short tonight.  Also, I'm tired and this topic isn't one I really want to share.  But it's a thing in my life and I'm getting real, so here goes...

Idolatry is the act of replacing God.  Back in the days of the old testament there were idols made of gold and people bowed down to them instead of God.  In fact, Moses was up on the mountain getting the ten commandments from God and his brother, a priest, was with God's people turning their gold into a calf for them to worship.

I don't have a golden calf that I bow down to.  But I do have something that has replaced God in my life.  In the hard moments, in the stressful moments, in the moments when life seems a bit too much and I want a way out instead of turning towards God and laying it all before Him I want to eat.

I hate that I just typed that for a lot of reasons.  To be absolutely, completely, taking off all my masks and baring my heart honest, it's hard to type because I am overweight.  Because I am self conscious about that.  Because when I first stepped on a wii fit three years ago my little avatar girl plumped out and looked depressed.  It's hard to type because as a kid I got picked on on the bus and as a teenager one boy, one time, said something really hurtful and no one really disagreed with him.

But, I realized today as I was praying about what to write and then praying about how I really wanted to write anything but this that this was what I needed to write.  I am not ashamed of my weight or even the food I eat.  Seven years ago God freed me from that.  I know I am a work in progress and I am actively working towards a healthy lifestyle because I want to be able to keep up with my son when he finally starts to walk.  Do I wish I was thinner? Yes.  Do I hate my body?  No.  Do I know I need to treat it well and eat healthy and be active?  Yes.

What breaks my heart and what I do feel ashamed of is that in the heat of a stressful moment my initial thought is, "I want to eat something yummy."  It's that my gut reaction is to turn to food instead of the God of the universe.  The One that knows me intimately and loves me beyond whatever I could think or imagine longs for me to lay my heart before Him, to seek Him, to converse with Him and I have chosen to withhold that from Him and replace Him with food.  He is eternal.  Food is temporary.

The mask is off and I'm feeling a little vulnerable so I am going to end here.  I do want to reiterate why I am doing this 20 days of being real: because I do believe that life is about connecting.  My hope isn't just that I would bare my soul and it would be done but that it would encourage you to connect with someone today.  To be real.  To live authentically.  To know that even though we wear masks and think we might be unlovable that God sees right through them to our hearts and He loves us.  He loves you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 2 Getting Real- I'm Messy

Yesterday I wrote about the comparison trap that I so often fall into.  Today I thought about something I remember learning in college: comparison creates an umbrella effect.  When we compare ourselves to others we either put ourselves above them or beneath them.  We gravitate over the umbrella or comparing brings us under it.  Either way is wrong.  It's pride to think we're better than another and it's pride masquerading as humility when we think we are less than someone else.

I want to share two things today.  The first has a lot to do with taking off a mask and the second was an unexpected God moment that I just want to share.  

clean, not put away dishes
Hi, my name is Danielle and I am a horrible housekeeper.  *gasp!*  Well, unless you really know me and then you are sitting at your computer nodding your head. ha!  It's true.  I hate this about myself but I don't care enough about it for it to really bring about change.  In fact, the only time I really care about having a super clean, neat and tidy house is if company is coming over.  In my normal day to day life it doesn't really bother me that there are little fur bunnies dancing around my hardwood floor or that my bed isn't made or that my desk is piled with papers and mail.  

I like to be organized but it doesn't stress me out when I'm not.  Well, until I have to find something.  Or, again, until someone is coming over.  Because if others know this then that means I am less of a woman.  It means they will judge me.  Or talk about my messy house when they leave.  It means they won't like me as much.  It means I'm standing under the umbrella and they are over it.  And I want to look like I have it all together.

My very messy Island
I remember as a teenager I didn't make my bed.  My grandma did.  Actually, as a kid I didn't have any chores.  My aunt told my grandma that I needed chores or I would grow up into a sloth of an adult (ok, she didn't use those words- she was much kinder. That was just what my heart heard).  So, my lack of housekeeping skills hit a tender spot.  Do I know I'm not a sloth of an adult?  Most days.  Do I feel less than because of them?  Yep.

Messy Counter
So, today I am peeling away that mask and am choosing grace.  I am not the tidiest.  And if you come to my house and take your shoes off (which you never ever have to do) your white socks may be a little less white when you leave.  But this I promise you- I will sit with you and I will listen to you.  I will offer you coffee or tea and if I have any treats you can help yourself. I will laugh with you and I might even cry with you.  That's what I can bring to my very messy table.

Here's the second thing I want to share with you: I had a really cool God moment today.  I ran to Target to pick up some Christmas gifts.  I thought it would just be a neat little trip in which I would treat myself to a tall, non-fat, no whip, caramel brulee latte and peruse the aisles with a sleeping baby in his carrier.  I did treat myself to a delicious latte and I perused the aisles.  The baby didn't sleep and I had to make a trip to the bathroom after he blew up his diaper.  The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

So, I was checking out and I just happened to look up at the lady that was cashing me out and I looked her in the eye and asked, "How are you today?" and I didn't look away.  She looked at me and I saw a little pain in her face.  She said that she'd been better.  I asked her why.  This morning she had to put her dog to sleep.  As she rang me out she shared about his struggles the past nine months and how today she had to put him down.  He was a little maltese named Gus.  

As I put my bags into my cart I told her how sorry I was and how I have a dog that is my baby, too.  And I leaned over and hugged her.  I don't know why.  I like a good hug but I am well aware not everybody does.  But sometimes when God works we don't have time to stop and think we are just in this moment, unaware of how big it really is.  And we act out of the core of who we are and I just like to hug.  This woman, she leaned in and accepted my hug.  She squeezed me back and thanked me and then told me to have a blessed day.

I walked out of Target knowing God had orchestrated that.  I didn't seek it.  I didn't start my day asking God for a great moment or to even help someone.  He just did it.  And I am incredibly humbled that I got to be a part of it.  I hope that lady knows that the God of the universe cares immensely about her.  Enough to send a random stranger to hug her.  Oh, the lengths God goes to to remind us just how much He cares.  

So, I'm a terrible housekeeper.  The worst.  But I can hug like a champ! I'll share with you the part of my day that cracks me up the most, I mean, since I already have you here.  After leaving Target I ran to Marshall's across the plaza.  As I checked out I purposefully looked the cashier in the eye and said, "How are you today?" just like I had done five minutes earlier in Target.  She looked at me like I was a weirdo, snapped out a, "Fine," handed me my receipt and ushered me on my way.  As my friend Kristie said, "It's not a recipe."  God does wonderful things.  On my own I do mediocre things. 

Lots of love to you today as you read this.  I'll be back tomorrow sans one more mask.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

20 Days of Getting Real

I have been wrestling with writing this post for almost a week and finally I am sitting down to type.  Last week at MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) a very sweet lady gave a very convicting talk about the comparison trap that we women fall into and the masks we wear as a result.  I am guilty of it.  I have been guilty of it for as long as I can remember.

In elementary school, my group of friends had moms and dads.  I was the only one that lived with her grandparents.  I was ashamed of that until I went to college.  I had a friend, Katie and she was pretty and incredibly smart and she could draw Disney princesses without having to trace them.  I was a good student but not as smart as Katie and I always had to trace the Disney Princesses because when I drew them freehand they resembled Edvard Munch's "The Scream" rather than Jasmine, Ariel or Belle.  Then there was Beth- Beth was creative and artsy and totally an individual.  And I was normal and boring and thought inside the box.  In high school I had friends that were thin and outgoing, beautiful and athletic and, although I loved them, in the back of my mind I always wondered how I fit in with them because I was awkward, clumsy and definitely not thin.   I felt like an outsider that had somehow snuck into their lives and was just waiting to be found out for who I really was.  Once they saw me for who I was they would shun me.  Looking back I know that was my own insecurity and I also know I missed out on really loving them because I was so dang insecure!

Those thoughts kept me in a really hard place of desiring their love and affection but also wanting to keep them at arm's length because I believed, eventually, they would leave me.  Self destructive? Yes. Healthy? No. If you know my childhood does it make sense? Well, yeah.  But the lie that I believed for most of my life was that was just how it had to be.

As a grown woman who has been through counseling I know better.  I am not the same person that I was at 15 or 17 or even 23.  But to say that the comparison trap is dead would be a lie.  The reality is that it's just different things that I can compare nowadays.  House, car, job, kids, income, weight, hair, fashion, etc.

So, here was my challenge- to be real.  To take off my mask and encourage women to take theirs off, too. If we all vowed to be real and to live authentically we could stop comparing and start enjoying each other.  Trish, who spoke at MOPS, said, "Life isn't about fitting in.  It's about connecting with each other."  That just hit my heart.

I have spent too much of my life trying to fit in and counting all the ways I have and continue to fall short.  I missed out on some really sweet relationships because of that and I am done.  So, for the next 20 days I will blog about whatever is really going on- not that I've ever written anything untrue before. But I want to peel away some masks and be free to share with you things that will hopefully break the "Happy, Sunshine, Rainbow" life that gets portrayed in social media.

So, let's start with the one that is freshest in my mind:  I feel like a crappy mom.  We started Sully on rice cereal even though I wanted to hold out and just nurse him until six months.  And I have struggled with thinking that I'm a bad mom because of that.  Even though I know it's what he needed because for four days he was miserable and I couldn't figure out why.  When I called the pediatrician and talked to the nurse she said he might be hungry since crying non stop is so out of his character.  I don't know where I came up with the expectation that I needed to solely nurse him until six months.  I don't know why in my head I think others will look down on me for that.  But I do.  And even though I now have a very happy baby and it's what is best for him, I still have the voice in the back of my mind telling me I failed.

Sully after rice cereal
This is where I can choose to stay.  It's actually really easy.  I could walk into the next MOPS meeting and feel like every mom in there is judging me.  Or this can be the crossroad where I choose to believe that I am being the best mom I can be.  This is where I can choose to walk in grace.

To the woman/mom that can relate to what I've just typed- whether it's about rice cereal or something totally different, let's band together and remember that today is not about fitting in but about connecting.  Maybe you wanted to breastfeed with all your heart and your body just couldn't.  Maybe you wanted to give birth naturally but you broke down and got an epidural or had to have a c-section.  Maybe you haven't lost those extra baby weight pounds or you have and your friends haven't.  Maybe you are walking through a desert season and comparing your life to someone who's in a mountaintop season.  Whatever comparison that runs through your mind when you are around a group of women, take time today to recognize it.  Take time today to lay it aside and connect with someone.

I'll be back tomorrow.  My mask won't.