We are going on the fourth day of no school. We are in desperate need of a change. Our moods are foul and we are “bored”. Just about the time those winter blues grasp a hold of our hearts, a little dose of sunshine gives us an extra boost.
A lovely group of friends gave me a “Be Happy” jar when I moved and then filled it with heartfelt messages and notes of encouragement.
I love this jar and everything it represents.
It’s that little extra oomph when the days seem long. It’s like a hug for my soul. Whenever I feel lonely, I simply pull out a note and my day instantly improves. It’s that “yes, you matter” message at exactly the right moment.
I decided this jar of joy is too good of an idea to keep a secret. Why not spread some love? Why not bust out our supplies and create a love ripple?
So we gathered:
- jars (recycled spaghetti and sauerkraut jars, thank you!)
- fun scrapbook paper (but any bit of paper will do)
- playful imaginations and creative juices
- a book of quotes (or use your computer to google some hopeful phrases about friendship, love, and happiness)
- markers or crayons or any writing implements
We wrote out fun memories shared with friends, encouraging quotes, funny stories, and anything we thought might make someone smile. The boys drew pictures. We just let our imaginations take over…
If you are feeling grumpy, these little babies will turn your mood around.
You can’t be grouchy when you are thinking of someone special or how meaningful that relationship is to you. I find that anytime I feel the funk coming, it’s best to think of someone else. It ALWAYS, ALWAYS brightens my day.
Is there someone you know who could use a lift? Tell him or her. Tell her why she’s awesome and how she inspires you. Share with him how he positively influences you.
Maybe YOU need a mood enhancer and some self-love messages.
Go ahead, get yourself a jar of sunshine and spread that good stuff around!!
Come about mid-February, I yearn for the golden days of summer. My eyes beg for the promise of growth that lies under a blanket of snow. This year, however, we haven’t even had much snow. Rather, we have plenty of cold days and brown grass.
The other day the temps rose to the 50’s and I felt the urge to cut back all the dead branches and decaying plant life. But, I reminded myself it was February. It’s too soon for spring. So I did the next best thing.
I went on a spring break and summer vacation. In my head. I browsed through my photos and took in the eye candy of perennials, trees, shrubs, and annuals that make my heart flutter.
The first to arrive to the spring party are these beauties:
Cue the majestic trees:
Then a few more flamboyant blooms join the scene.
And the symphony of colors and textures continues. Blooming shrubs join the parade of color.
When the threat of frost has passed, I get giddy about adding spring flowers to my pots. Pansies, tulips, crocuses, and hyacinths officially announce the dismissal of winter.
As the spring blooms begin to fade, the early summer annuals and perennials trumpet their arrival with dazzling shades of the rainbow.
By mid-summer, the bounty of blooms adds such zest to the landscape that each day brings continuous wonder.
Warm days invite happiness to take root. The bees dutifully buzz about and work their pollinating magic.
The yard is alive and the birds just seem to chirp happier little tunes. The carpet of green grass, the scent of the flowers, the orchestra of color–EVERYTHING AMAZING!
Isn’t that the beauty of life? The promise of warm days ahead despite the cold winters.
So, today I’ll soak in the color of the birds against the gray backdrop instead of the flowers.
I will marvel at the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets instead of the blooming tree buds.
Soon enough I will be digging into the warm soil and tending the next wave of color. Today, I will gratefully accept the gift of winter.
We all have days when we feel a little less than awesome. We wonder if anyone is thinking about us. We might even feel alone. Maybe we are in an emotional funk and we don’t even know why. Maybe we blame winter. Long and gray days make it hard sometimes to find the sparkle of life.
As the new year beckoned, I had this incredible two-week window of confidence. I felt energized and ready to take the bull by the horns. I was going to do great things. I was going to write AMAZING blog posts and I was going to change the world.
I felt empowered and motivated and I really believed myself.
Then my inner critic took over. Doubt set up camp in my brain and drowned out all my positive thoughts with negative ones. I could not get a word on paper to save my life. I wanted to release something powerful and beautiful with words, yet I didn’t feel capable of powerful or beautiful.
So, I had a good cry. It’s what I do when I feel hopeless. Then I prayed for wisdom. I also prayed for friends who were dealing with struggles of their own. “God, we all need some help here”.
You know what happened? Just as I was having a little pity party for myself, I opened my mail and discovered I had received a little package. My sweet and dear friend sent me a book. THIS book:
As I flipped through the pages, I read:
Do you see that? Affirmation. Love. Encouragement.
More pages became vitamins for my soul! Acceptance. Support. Connection
I sobbed because THIS book and my beautiful friend, Dana, had reached right in and gave me new hope. It was an instant love injection. Empowerment. Commitment. Courage.
I do not deserve this kind of love. And yet, He sends these living, breathing earthly angels to me time and time again. He gives me these incredible women, friends, family and a compassionate husband, all of whom breathe new life into me at just the right moments. He answers in ways I just cannot fathom. He whispers truth into my ear and propels me forward.
Last night, as I was still grappling with my purpose, He did it again. Another longtime friend (my lovely Lisa–you can read all about her HERE) sent me a text and shared a loving act of kindness she and her son were going to provide to someone in need. She told me I had inspired that act. Me. Me who messes up A LOT. Me who didn’t think she could inspire a flea. She can never know just how perfectly timed that little text affirmation was or how deeply she spoke love and hope into my soul.
Friends, never underestimate the power of prayer and the little acts of love you bestow on your friends and family. Maybe it was just a simple “I’m thinking of you” text. Or, you remembered a family member’s birthday and sent them a card. Maybe you just listened and gave of your time. These acts may seem small in scale, but I assure you they are BIG in magnitude. I believe if you just let go, just give up a little of your control (or a lot as the case may be), God will provide for you endless opportunities. Maybe you are not a believer or you are uncomfortable with what you view as my “religious talk”. That’s ok. I was there too. I spent many years sorting through what I believed or didn’t believe. Sometimes I still do. I’m just an ordinary woman who has made lots of mistakes. I still make them and I don’t always get things right. Yet, He loves me. Perfectly imperfect me. He’s proven this over and over and over.
If you are feeling alone, do not be afraid to reach out. If you feel purpose-less, commit to just one act of kindness for someone else. If you feel hopeless, pray.
Please let this serve as your heaping teaspoon of hope for today. My gift to you. My gift from my loving God.
Working Moms. I’m talking to you today. I want to lift you up and remind you how incredibly important you are in our village of life. I know you have tough days. I remember those difficult days when it was hard to go to work because little ones were crying. They beg you not to go and I know your heart breaks into hundreds of little pieces. I know that mother guilt creeps in and you wonder if you are doing the right thing. You want to be everywhere and everything to your children.
Do you know your power? YOU are doing amazing things.
When you are having a particularly tough day, I want to remind you of the incredibly important role you play in the village. As a Stay At Home mom, I’m grateful for your partnership and I need YOU. There are lots of great reasons to celebrate YOU but here are two that top my list:
1. You are showing boys every day examples of women who provide and contribute outside the home. You know that’s vitally important, don’t you? I don’t mean to imply that stay at home moms aren’t modeling important lessons too. However, when my boys see this mom folding laundry and preparing meals, they see but one side of the many treasures women are able to offer. YOU are teaching my boys another perspective and I am forever grateful. When my boys make snarky remarks that “girls are weak”, I remind them how strong women really are and I point to YOU. YOU who balances work with home. YOU who has an identity other than “Mommy”. YOU who manages to make meetings on time AND get back to the school in a hurry for performances and art shows. YOU who has had a long day at work and then comes home and continues to be an important decision maker. Boys need to see women holding their own in some setting other than that of nurturing caretaker. They gain even more respect for women and their gifts.
2. You are modeling options and multiple identities for little girls. Too often we give little girls dolls and encourage them only to hone their “mothering” skills. But not every girl wants to be a mom. Not every girl or woman aspires for the path of motherhood. These little precious eyes that watch you–YOU are showing them that they can and will do anything they set their minds to do. YOU are demonstrating that women are smart and capable and leaders and sitting at the table with men. I love that about you. I was that little girl and I needed women like you. I’m grateful for your fearlessness and determination and for pursuing your dreams. The world needs more of that. YOU who smashes this ridiculous concept that women can only be princesses and can only be saved by men. YOU don’t need no stinkin’ prince because you are strong and fierce and can solve all the problems yourself. I’m shouting to YOU–THANK YOU!
Together, we make a fabulous team. We need each other as allies and to continue to support one another. When our culture pits us against one another, I want YOU to remember that I think you are worthy beyond measure and I value the role you play in our village. I’ve got your back when you are stuck in traffic or you can’t get out of a meeting. Ask me for help because I’m happy to give back to you. Let’s continue to appreciate what each of us brings to the table and continue to lift one another up. I adore you, sister! I’m not judging you because I’m too busy respecting you.
Rock on, Working Moms, rock on!
Oh man! Sometimes I get a little too big for my britches. I start to find myself on top of the world (albeit a totally weird little world) when BAM, I get a reminder that perhaps I have much to learn. I get served my humble pie.
Recently I met with a friend for coffee. Our conversation started innocuously enough–simple banter about the things that are good and bad about Facebook. Listen, I know no one will disagree that there is plenty of crappity crap to be found. Oh, I cringe when people I love post mean-spirited stuff that I find offensive. I wonder “why? Why with all the wonderful things going on around them do people not focus their energy elsewhere?” It’s so hard. There’s always one friend passive-aggressively public venting to one person (what’s it called–Vague-booking?) but all 356 other friends have to hear about it. For the love of humanity, WHY??? WHY??? Or the time drains of the many silly quizzes that are posted “Are you Brilliant?” “What Color Is your Brain?” Ok, who am I kidding? I’ve taken a few of these darn things (and I’ll never get those 5 minutes back!).
But the good stuff? What of that? Of friends sharing photos of their new, beautiful babies (or grand babies) or of gorgeous weddings. Or being able to lift someone up with an encouraging note or a prayer when they are having a rough day. What about the funny quip a friend shares about their kid that makes you appreciate their sense of humor even more? Or when someone posts a photo of their amazing balcony view over the ocean–a little eye candy and reprieve of the winter blanketing us here? Surely these joyous occasions shared are amazing ways for us to stay connected with friends and family both near and far.
But where my friend and I came to a disagreement was on how scripture dictates our interactions with friends on Facebook. For my friend, the struggle was with the vanity or self-promotion that litters our news feeds. Fair enough, I thought. There is plenty of horn tooting and boasting going on. Heck, I know I’m guilty of this from time to time. We brag about our kids and their accomplishments, our vacations, our work… (truly, the list is endless). In this way, I argue that Facebook is not unlike face-to-face conversations where these same topics come up. Oh, we are so vain sometimes, aren’t we?
Where we parted ways was over our interpretation of the idea or notion of friends sharing/posting their good deeds.
My friend framed her perspective with this scripture from Matthew 6:1-2:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.”
I felt a sting. Did she believe I fell into this category? Almost immediately, I found myself growing defensive. I argued that surely Facebook could be used as a vessel for good–to raise awareness for causes that we’d otherwise not be privy. If a friend shared his experience of helping another family in need, I saw that as positive–as a friend leading by example. I argued that perhaps that moment would spark a little fire under another family to say “gee, we should do something like that. I never knew about that organization” I acknowledged that certainly some people could use it as self-promotion and as a “look how awesome I am” mentality. However, my stance is that I choose to give my friends the benefit of the doubt. I further illustrated my viewpoint with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. If people hadn’t taken the challenge and mentioned their donation, perhaps it would not have had the same response. What worked, I reasoned, was seeing your friends participate and thinking “we could do that too.” Could God really be upset that millions of people were donating to a worthy cause or gaining awareness of a heavily under-funded and less talked about disease? What if, instead, he was beyond thrilled that one man used his tools (and God given creativity) to spark a movement of human compassion. What if technology could be used for the greater good? Could social media really be so awful?
My perspective comes from Matthew 5:16:
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
I’m sure we’re not the first to debate this topic and it certainly left me feeling a bit convicted. I had to go back and review some of the the stuff I’ve posted. We talked about how perhaps the things I post about helping others makes people feel bad. Did I inadvertently make someone feel small? Did I make a working mom feel inadequate because I was able to do something with my children on a snow day when she had to go to work? Do people believe I’m posting photos of helping at the Ronald McDonald House, for example, as me bragging? Did I make the post more about me than about the importance of being the hands and feet for others? The truth is, this line of thinking is what broke me.
In my heart of hearts, I really felt I was shining God’s light. This blog, my Facebook posts, my life mantra–all center around how He has lifted me. Me, a broken, messy person. Me, a grieving mother and scared cancer survivor. Me, the woman who did (and still does) make foolish decisions. Me, who from time to time is of little faith. I am and will always be a hot mess. But He gives me hope. He replenishes my cup of life. He guides me and reminds me of grace. He makes beauty out of my messes. Every day.
I’ve felt very led by God to share my story. If it’s been interpreted as anything other than encouraging others to love one another, then I am truly sorry and I have failed. If I’ve made you feel small, less than, or worthless with my words, I am sorry. It’s the complete antithesis of my purpose. I am humbled. As I told my friend, it was hard for me to hear but I am willing to grow through this experience.
My hope is that others feel empowered and inspired to see God’s work and to join me in shining His light. Can we make Facebook a community of hope? A place to lift one another? Can we all work a little harder to share His beauty and love one another? Can we think, maybe just a little more, before we post something whether or not we’re lifting people up?
Revealing who we really are can be very scary. Somewhere along the way, we were taught to put our best face forward. In the meantime, we had to hide our bad behaviors, highlight our strengths, and convince others of our perfection.
Man, that’s exhausting. And the truth is, I’m not sure people like THAT person anyway. Who REALLY wants to hang out with the one who seemingly runs the world with perfect parenting skills, flawless skin, and amazing time management?
I am constantly fighting the urge to put up the mask. Part of the reason I started blogging was to just go ahead and put it all out there. I’m just tired of trying to be something I’m not. I’ve blogged before about embracing our “flawtabulousness” but then time goes by and I forget and start playing the game again.
So in the spirit of authenticity and embracing the REAL story, I present to you Messy Flawtabulous Me:
- I’m not neat and orderly. I have totes that I throw everything in before people show up to my house. If you peeked in just one tote, you’d know my secret. But, I run around like a crazy person trying to show you a perfect home. You don’t even WANT to know how many piles of junk reside in my bedroom! <shudders>
I’m not always a great mom. Sure, I love to throw a good party for my kids’ birthdays and I create lots of little crafts to celebrate holidays. But, I’m equally impatient with the day to day tasks of child-rearing. I yell–way more often than I should–and I get irritated when my kids do not obey. Then I threaten them with all sorts of punishment if they act out in public. (You should see the “I’m warning you” look of holy terror I throw the kids’ way when we’re out and about). I WANT to be better but sometimes I’m just too tired to try all these tips that others allege makes me a better mom. What if I’m just not? What if you are not? Could we live with that?
- Oh yeah, my kids? They aren’t perfect. Usually they are obedient and respectful. But not always. Sometimes they snub our rules and have even informed me I’m the worst mom ever. They argue over clothing choices, bed time curfews, and toys. I’ve mediated a few shoving matches that I was sure would land me on my rear. Let’s not forget the abundance of whining and rampant negotiating that takes place daily as well. Little angels they are not.
- I’m really good at TALKING about eating healthy. I buy lots of pretty produce and even whip up a few tasty, healthy treats. Then, I regress and buy crap. Family size portions of crap. Doritos–thou art my kryptonite! The same can be said of my exercise routines. I get on a kick for a few months and make a little progress. Then BAM, sleeping and laziness wins.
- I sometimes (ok, daily) loathe the reflection in the mirror. I curse my invisible eyebrows, ever increasing eye wrinkles, and slants-to-the-left nose. (Yeah, I’m a little sensitive about it). For the life of me, I can’t take a decent “selfie” and I’m not sure why they are so popular. Is it just me or do I look twice as bad in my reverse image??
There are plenty more items I could add to this list. Yet I have resolved to spend 2015 looking for the good in everything–including my flaws. So, here’s the 411 on my quirky side:
- I dream BIG. I’m an idea person who lacks all sense of logic. I’m delusional enough to think that I CAN make a difference in this world. Sure, I get beat down every once in a while. But, most of the time, I’m convinced that if we all try a little harder, we can create such beauty in our community. I’m an idealist to a fault and really think we have the power within us to make changes that can improve society. I’m working so hard to create a “kindness army” and show people that it doesn’t take much to extend love. I feel BIG THINGS coming and I’m super excited. I probably annoy people with my “pie in the sky” way and I’m ok with that. I’m not going to stop. This leads me to the next one.
- I consider myself a sunshine person. I thrive on making people shine and brightening their day. I’ve spent lots of years trying to figure out my “gift”. Long years, friends, long years of wondering if I had ANY special qualities. Then I started to figure it out (with a lot of heavenly intervention!). When I’m serving others, I feel an enormous nudge from God. It’s like my own private “atta girl” that He brings me. It’s when I feel beautiful. It’s the only time I feel beautiful and maybe that’s how God is working on me. He’s continually reminding me that true beauty comes from within.
- My vulnerability has connected me deeply with others. Every tragedy and low point in my life has pointed me in another direction and intertwined me with someone new. Someone who has changed me. I’ve learned there is always someone who “gets it” and cares. By exposing vulnerability, I grow and learn the power of prayer, grace, and forgiveness. It’s when I see the human element most clearly, experience the greatest compassion and gain perspective.
- I’m passionate about acceptance. I struggle when I hear people group others into categories and then label their worth based on these notions. I cringe when I see hate being spewed and intolerance being practiced–particularly in the name of Christianity. I’m deeply disturbed by bigotry and discrimination and a basic lack of empathy. I get fired up and often find myself struggling to bite my tongue. Complacency and apathy are what I consider the biggest hindrances of progress in a community. My viewpoints are not always popular or accepted…and I’m learning to be ok with that too. Change only occurs when we are pushed from our comfort zones.
- Ok, here’s where I really let my dreams run wild. I’m a total scaredy cat when it comes to REALLY trusting my abilities. I have an overwhelming fear of failure. So much so it paralyzes me from moving forward sometimes. I’ve been home for over a year now–dreaming of my next “gig”. I get ideas and then I talk myself out of them. Since staying home full time, it seems I’ve lost a little confidence that I can be something other than a mom. One resolution this year is to be brave. So here goes: I want to blog and really make a go of it. Like professionally. I have no idea how and I have no clue if anyone other than my sweet friends would read it. In fact, I’m getting woozy just putting “it” out there. You know, on account that I could very likely fail and go nowhere with my big ideas. But I REALLY REALLY want to be a change-agent. I want to use my voice to speak truth, inspire hope, and spread love.
There she is–messy, full of shenanigans, and perfectly imperfect.
It’s taken me a long time but I’m ok with her. She’s me and I’m flawtabulous. Here’s to a new year ahead. A year where we take the plunge to accept and be ourselves, to open our eyes to the possibilities, and just agree to love one another (no matter how hard that is some days). ; )
Who is with me???