What I Learned in March

I love Emily Freeman’s “What I Learned” monthly series. I keep meaning to post what I learned each month, but then the month escapes me. So, this will technically be things I learned in February and March. I’m sure you won’t mind.

1.  There is such a thing as alien abduction insurance. Some of it is for playing jokes. Some of it, apparently, is for real.

2.  I was late to the Downton Abbey game, so I watched the first three seasons over about eight weeks last winter. I learned this winter that the seasons are only eight episodes long. I was highly disappointed when the season was over so quickly, as I watched three times as many episodes in the same time frame last year.

3.  There are hundreds of faucets, dozens of light fixtures and, quite possibly, thousands of flooring options. We’ve have come to the conclusion that we know what we don’t like. What we do like changes quite dramatically when we see price tags. Funny how that works.

4.  Working towards a dream is exciting, exhausting, overwhelming, stressful, thrilling, and requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

5.  Working towards a dream also takes an enormous amount of patience. And I pass that lesson in patience along to you, as our dream pursuing is not yet ready to be announced on social media. (But you can make some guesses based on Number 3.)

6.  I still think of my parents as being how I remember them when I was a kid. But, now I’m that age, so they can’t be that age anymore. I used to think age 50 was old, until my parents turned 50. My dad had quintuple heart bypass surgery this month. (He’s recovering well, by the way!) It was fairly shocking when we found out he needed the surgery. Sometimes you “know” things but don’t really think about them much. This month, I learned my parents will not live on this earth forever. (And, yes, I know my parents will read this.)

7.  There is such a thing as quintuple heart bypass surgery. Wikipedia says “more than four is uncommon.”

8.  There is a Guinness Book of World Records category for Most Heart Bypass Operations. Shane from Canada had three separate surgeries and eleven bypasses. I hope my Dad doesn’t beat this record.

9.  There is also a Guinness Book of World Records category for “Longest Surving Quintuple Heart Bypass Patient.” Game on, Chris from Canada. (What’s up, Canada?)

10.  Minecraft is a strange game, but when you suggest playing along with your three kids, they will react as though you offered bags of candy.

11.  My kids can build entire homes on Minecraft in the time it takes me to build one wall.

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Posted at Emily Freeman’s “Let’s Share What We Learned in March.”

 

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Dear Me

Last year, I read Emily Freeman’s Grace for the Good Girl and found it to be written just for me. She has a new book out called Graceful, and it’s the same message as her previous book directed at teenage girls. I’m pretty sure I could have used that book as a teen! In honor of the new book, Emily invited people to write a letter to their teenage self and link it up to her blog. It was a fun little assignment, you might want to do it yourself. Mine is below.

Dear 17-year-old me,

I’ve lived twice as long as you now, can you believe it? You played house for so many years and dreamed of being a grown up, and now you are one. It’s been a good life, and I’ve learned a few things that you might find helpful. So, as you venture into your senior year of high school, here are some things you should know:

Stop being so scared to try new foods. Specifically, can you figure out how to like lettuce and other green leafy things? It might be OK as a teenager to eat only two croutons and the cherry tomato half on every salad automatically given to you at a banquet or reception, but ordering everything sans lettuce as a 35-year-old is a little embarrassing. Yes, your husband (Really! You DO get one! More on him later.) also dislikes lettuce, making you true soul mates, but you are both trying to eat healthier these days, and tolerating lettuce would really be a bonus in that department.

You were never really good at getting your hair “big” like the other girls. It’s a fad that’s already going out of style, but don’t fret. It just means many less embarrassing photos later in life. You’re really not much into fads anyway. I mean, you rolled your jeans and wore multiple pairs of brightly colored socks with your white canvas shoes, but you were never the trend setter. Trendy isn’t your thing, and that’s OK, too. Everyone has their own style, even if it’s not evident in high school.

That’s me, second from the left.

For someone who isn’t very good with numbers, you are pretty set on one number: your GPA. Can I tell you a little secret? When you are 35 you will not remember what your GPA was. Gasp! I know. I know. It’s a statistic that gives you worth, proves you are good. You enjoy school and you love to learn, those are wonderful things. But stop letting perfect grades stress you out! That B in choir your freshman year was a gift, I tell you, a gift! Can you imagine your stress level if you had the chance for that perfect 4.0? You are so much more than a number. Just last week your oldest child brought home his/her first school paper with a grade on top. (Sorry for the gender confusion, but you and the hubs are a rare breed who don’t find out the gender of your children before they are born. I don’t want to spoil the surprise!) The child is in third grade, the first year with real letter grades. And that first school paper with a grade on top did a number on your heart. The grade was a good one, there was no disappointment. In fact, this child does very well in school, just like you did. But the truth is, you see beyond the grade, the numbers, the statistics. You see your precious child whom you value for so much more than his/her ability to get good grades. Keep doing well in school and enjoy learning, but stop letting your GPA determine your self worth.

You girls know how to party with your sparkling grape juice and big, baggy shirts!

You also need to know that having a boyfriend does not give you value either. I’m pretty sure you know this one, but it’s still hard to feel like the only one who never had a boyfriend. You aren’t the only one. You have an amazing group of girlfriends (Hey, we’re still friends, can you believe it?) and those friendships are a huge blessing! Enjoy the time you spend together. You have had many experiences in high school, and will have more opportunities in college, that you might have missed out on if there was a guy to distract you. Instead, you have missed out on heartache and who knows what kind of trouble. You will spend most of your college years without a boyfriend either. So, just learn to enjoy meeting new people and stop wondering if every event you attend might be the event where you meet “the one.” All that brain power could be used for more noble causes. Towards the end of your senior year of college you will see a cute guy at your church. And then you will see him several places around campus, wondering why you never saw him before. You will not get the opportunity to meet him at church, and you will sing like Alanis Morrisette that it’s ironic, but do not despair! You know that job giving tours of the dorms to new students where you’ll only make $50?  Totally worth it! You’ll get to work with — yep, you guessed it — cute church boy! And it turns out to be the perfect opportunity for two kinda quiet people to meet and fall in love. So worth the wait!

This letter is getting long, but there is one more thing that you must know: It is OK to make mistakes. You are so desperate to do what’s right and what pleases God. This is a good thing, yet you take it to an extreme. You are constantly wondering if you are doing things good enough, if what you are doing is really God’s will, if there is something you are missing that would make your life more aligned with God. (And you’re developing a rather prideful and judgmental heart, which is definitely not God’s will for your life.) That voice telling you you are not good enough is not God’s voice. I wish I could say that at 35 you’ve stopped listening to that voice, but much like your lettuce preferences, some battles take longer to win. The good news is you start to listen more to the voice of God’s grace. It’s been there all along, you just tune it out in favor of items to put on your “I’m good enough check list.” So, throw that list away, even though it’s not on paper and only in your imagination. Cause that’s just it, it’s an imaginary list. Much like you see your children for being worth more than their grades, God sees you for more than what you do. He appreciates your heart so desperate to follow Him, but He really just wants you to get to know Him and to enjoy His presence in your life. If you start there, the “doing what’s right” will naturally follow.

There is so much more I could tell you — and I know you think you want to know every detail — but the stuff I already told you is a good start. Enjoy the journey!

Love,

Me 🙂

P.S. As a 35-year-old, you’ll wish 70-year-old you would send along a letter. But, then you’ll realize she already has in the form of the women in their 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s and even 30s that say, “Enjoy your kids! They grow up so fast …”

Book Review: You’re Already Amazing

I hear a missionary share about her work in Africa. I think, “Maybe I should go to Africa!”

I see a family with twelve children. I think, “Maybe I should have twelve kids!”

I read about a mom who cooks everything from scratch, homeschools her children, runs a business from home, has organized every square inch of her house, writes blog posts every day, and has a weekly date night with her husband, all while looking super cute in her thrift store finds. I think, “Maybe I should do all of that!”

It’s certainly okay to be inspired by someone’s story, challenged to re-think my life choices, or follow someone else’s example. But sometimes I’m working so hard to be like everybody else, that I forget to be who God made me to be. 

If you’ve ever felt the same, wondered what you should really be doing with your life, or wished you could just do life better, I recommend the book You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth.

And here’s the thing: we only get one you. There never has been, and never will be, another you in this world. God doesn’t have a backup plan or replacement policy. That’s why I feel so passionately about you being who you are and embracing it. We don’t need a copy of someone else–we need to the one and only, original you.

— Holley Gerth, You’re Already Amazing, pg. 180

God did not create me to go around trying to be like everyone else. He uniquely designed and gifted me for a purpose. I sometimes wish God would just send me an email and tell me what to do with my life. And while You’re Already Amazing is not an email from God, it is an encouraging book with plenty of words that likely would be included if God were to send you an email. {Grin.}

With a series of tools, questions and examples, Holley helps you better recognize and evaluate your strengths, skills, relational style, personality and more, all with a warm, conversational style that makes you feel like you are chatting at her kitchen table. She weaves in a bit of poetry and shares stories from the women she counsels, her friends and her own life. She addresses lies you believe about being perfect and comparing ourselves to others, and gives guidance for determining where God’s journey is taking you.

This book seems incredibly timely for me, as I ponder what to do with my life in the coming years when my kids will all be in school. It also seems like a great book to keep as a reference, to re-read when I’m questioning a decision or headed to a new season of life.

More than anything, this book left me feeling content to be me. Just me. Quirks, issues, imperfections and hopes included.

And, psssst! Do you know what? The same goes for you! You’re amazing!

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If you’d like to know more about the book, check out DaySpring’s site here.

For more about the author, check out HolleyGerth.com.

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of You’re Already Amazing in exchange for this review, however all opinions are mine. Gracias.

Just Obey Already!

Soccer night.

I appreciate the opportunity for our oldest son to play soccer, but getting there three nights a week by 5:45 can be a challenge. We usually rush through supper, run around looking for somebody’s shoes (often shoe-napped by our smallest shoe wearer), and hustle out the door.

It’s really not a pace that I enjoy. We’re tolerating it for the six weeks of soccer.

On one particular night, Dad was going to drop Mom and Andrew off at soccer practice and take the girls to a nearby park. This seemed ultra confusing to the kids. Andrew, who likes to think and plan through life, didn’t understand. He was also upset that his sisters were going to the park and he had to go to soccer.

Mom got tired of answering questions.

“Andrew,” I said, in my snippy mom voice, “Sometimes you just need to obey and you will understand how it all works later!”

I immediately wanted to retract my tone. I mean, he just wanted to understand. I was the one choosing to be annoyed by his questions.

But I also was immediately struck by what I said: “Sometimes you just need to obey and you will understand how it all works later.”

Sometimes I need to just obey God and trust that I will understand how it all works later.

How many times is it easier to wonder, question, worry and question some more about God has in store? He rarely gives us the big picture — He just asks us to take a step. One step. It often leaves me wondering: But how will this look? Is this all there is? What will others think? How will this affect my family long-term? Who will pay for this? What if it’s a complete failure?

I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. Wondering if you’ve made the right decision. Worrying that you don’t have enough money. Contemplating how you can escape a tough assignment. Thinking about what other people might think of your decision. It’s human.

We don’t have to ignore the questions or worry or wonderings, but we need to turn them over to God. Tell Him our concerns. Ask Him to give us the strength. Plead with Him to help us remember how He has provided and worked in the past.

As I read through a Psalm a day (well, not every day, but most) I see this repeatedly. The writer is often distraught, worried, sick or feeling forgotten by God. Yet in the midst of trials or struggles, the writer remains firm in following the Lord. He remembers what God has done in the past and continues to be a faithful follower.

Psalm 77 starts with the writer in distress, unable to sleep and obviously worried about the future. Then he changes his perspective:

 10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
       the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

 11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
       yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

 12 I will meditate on all your works
       and consider all your mighty deeds.

 13 Your ways, O God, are holy.
       What god is so great as our God?

 14 You are the God who performs miracles;
       you display your power among the peoples.

I was basically asking Andrew to do the same thing. “Hey, Buddy, you can trust me. You might not know all the details, but just remember that I have taken care of you in the past, and I will do so in the future. Nothing I ask you to do will be out of my control.”

God is trustworthy. Nothing in life is out of His hands. It is good to “just obey and understand how it all works later.”

*Edit: I originally used the word “safe” instead of “good” in that last sentence. I try not to edit and reword things I write too much, or I’d spend my whole life doing that. 😉 However, it’s really not always “safe” to follow God. It’s risky. It’s hard. It means taking jumps off of cliffs sometimes and wondering if there will be a soft landing. Sometimes we need to do it. Sometimes we need to just obey.