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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It’s Not a Performance

A flier came home from school last winter announcing a theater performance opportunity for kids, and I immediately thought of our daughter, Morgan.

Many people don’t know this side of our middle daughter, but she has been turning things into stages for her whole life. The couch, the built-in bench in our dining room and an overturned Rubbermaid tote have all been used for performances over the years.

When I asked her if she would like to try out for the Missoula Children’s Theater performance of The Secret Garden, she said, “YES!!!”

I stayed for the first few minutes of the audition. There were more than 80 children and only about 50 parts. During the first tryout exercise, the quiet Morgan most people know showed up. As I left the auditorium, I was already mentally preparing my “mom speech.” You know, the one telling her how proud I was of her for trying something new and stepping out of her comfort zone. How I was excited she has a passion for theater and she can learn from the experience and try again another time.

After the audition, Morgan came running toward me, and it was immediately apparent I wasn’t going to need my speech. She had gotten a part as a flower in the garden with other first grade students, and she was very excited!

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There were several rehearsals that same week and two performances the following Saturday. All of the kids did great, but I was particularly proud of Morgan, of course. I was very proud of her for doing something she loves, for stepping out of her comfort zone to try something new, and for doing a great job.

As I stood in the theater after the performance, I realized I mostly was just proud because she’s mine. I love her not for what she does or for how hard she tries or for how well she performs. I love her because she’s my girl!

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Some proud mom tears were filling my eyes when it seemed like God interrupted my thoughts, right there in the theater. He reminded me that His love is kind of like the love I have for my children, only it’s so much better — beyond what I can even fathom!

He loves you not for what you do or how hard you try or how well you perform. God loves you because you are His. (1 John 3:1.) You are His child!

My pastor has been teaching from Galatians, and he has used the phrase, “The Gospel is a promise, not a performance.” You probably know that, but if you are like me, you forget from time to time. It’s easy to start operating in performance mode, checking things off a religious to-do list.

Yes, we show our love for God through obedience to His commands (1 John 5:3), but His love for us is not dependent on how well we obey. In fact, the Bible tells us in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”

One of my favorite passages of scripture is Romans 8:38-39 which tells us nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Let us remember that. God has lavished His love on us! We do not — cannot even — perform to receive His love.

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Linking up over with Jennifer Dukes Lee, who lives in the opposite corner of Iowa as I do, and her #TellHisStory weekly link up.

Being OK with Me

Being OK with Me Banner

I’m OK with myself. Really, I am. The title up there might indicate I don’t like myself very much. Most of the time, I’m OK with me. I see my strengths and weaknesses. I see how I’ve changed and grown over the years. I generally feel contentment about who I am, where I am and what I do.

But.

But, there is also this nagging feeling that I am not enough. I should be more or do more. I should fix something. I should try harder. There is a shadow following me around whispering, “I should. I should. I should.”

I know I’m not alone. I sense you feel it, too. I hear it when you talk about how you’re failing. I see it when you stand on the edge, wondering if you fit.  I know because, well, me too. I lay in my bed wondering what you think of me after our conversation earlier in the day. I cringe when you compare yourself to me, yet turn around and compare myself to you.

I read about it almost weekly on the internet. On a recent day, I came across two such posts. They were published on different days, but I stumbled upon them the same day.

I read these words and shout, “Amen!” Phrases that never come out of my mouth start popping into my head. “Preach it, Sista!” “You go, Girl!” You get the idea. The words of those posts are full of truth. They sooth and encourage, and I embrace them. I’m OK with me. For a few hours. Or maybe even a whole day.

But the shadow catches up to me again. I grasp for the truth, but it slips through my fingers.

My husband is leading a couple groups through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University this fall. At the end of the first DVD session, Dave says, “What would happen to the kingdom of God if the people of God were out of debt? How much of this world could we, as believers, change?”

I wonder the same about women. What could the women of God — the daughters of Christ — do for the kingdom of God if we were all OK with ourselves? How could God use us if I was OK with me and you were OK with you?

I want to recognize areas for growth and change in my life without a sense of shame.

I want to celebrate your gifts and successes without feeling like I’m not enough.

I want to lay in my bed praying for you, not worrying about what I said to you earlier in the day.

I want to compare my “right now” to my “used to be” and not some unrealistic idea of perfection.

You, too? Let’s wrestle with this for 31 days.*

*I originally intended to participate in the 31 Days series, but I was unable to complete the series in 31 days. It is an on-going series here. Thank you for grace as I work to complete it.

31 Days: Being OK with Me

Being OK with Me.

I linked up at The Nesting Place for the annual 31 Days series. I attempted two 31 Days series, which was a very unrealistic goal. I’ve turned this into an on-going series I will contribute to for several months. Thank you for your grace.

Being OK with Me. (The introduction.)

A Disclaimer

Scrubbing the Deck

A Quote

A Theme Song

Being OK in this Culture

Three Smiling Kids

I saw a new blog link up, and thought it would be fun to try. You know my history of linking up places … I am the Random Reporter, you know. 🙂 This link up is called “Behind the Scenes.” We all like to post the nice, cute, happy things online, but maybe there is sometimes a bigger story than the nice, cute and happy. Here’s my story:

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The picture received a “Cuteness x3!” comment from Grandma, but the truth is the picture almost didn’t happen.

Monroe ParkThree smiling kids having a blast on an old-school merry-go-round — how could you NOT like this picture?

We drove to Des Moines Monday to have lunch with Grandma and Grandpa B., who were in town for an appointment. I wanted to make the most of the hour drive, but we didn’t need to shop, and we didn’t have a ton of time to go anywhere like the zoo or science center. So, my idea was to “park hop” on the way home. We would stop in the towns between Des Moines and home and see if we could find a fun playground in each one. The kids liked the idea, and agreed to four parks for 15 minutes each.

Park #1 was fun for a while, but then someone started crying. Park #2 was a similar story. Lots of bossy talk, stomping around mad and crying. I was done. “That’s it,” I said. “Let’s just go home. I have a lawn to mow and you have a room to clean.”

Thankfully, Angry Mom gave in to the pleas for one more chance, and Park #3 was perfect. Everyone had fun! No one was bossing anyone else around! No one was crying!

We stopped in Town #4, but it was too small for a park, other than the school playground. School appeared to be in session, so we kept driving. Someone had to use the potty, and everyone agreed we could just go home.

So, there you have it, the story behind the picture of three happy kids.

 

 

Here

Here.

Part of my year of Dance was the idea of being spontaneous, in the moment, fully present. It seems like a fleeting thing, as a mom, to fully live in. this. exact. moment. There are so many thoughts always running through my head. What’s for supper? Who needs to do homework? Where is that missing birth certificate? Why did I say that to so-and-so yesterday? What did the teacher think when I forgot the T-shirt form?

It’s so much easier to rehash the past or worry about the future.

I had a moment of just being here today. My four-year-old asked me to pick her up and dance with her around the kitchen. I was making a grocery list and we needed to keep moving so we could get to the store and to pick up her siblings from school on time. I could have said no.

But, I didn’t. I took the time to be here, and it was well worth my time.

#KitchenDanceParty

#KitchenDanceParty

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5 minute fridayThis post is part of Five Minute Friday, a writing exercise from Lisa-Jo Baker. She posts a writing prompt each Friday and we write for five minutes, and five minutes only. 

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 …”