Lean in…

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Not everyone will allow themselves to cry in public. I have definitely been known to openly shed a tear or two. I’m not talking about a big ugly cry, but tears on the cheeks, yes. Last week at my Bible study, I cried. It wasn’t something I had planned on doing, and to be honest, it even surprised me a bit. Now that I hopefully have your attention, I’ll explain.

I’m currently in a new season of life. These birdies that I have been raising are trying out their wings and I am nervously biting my nails as I watch them teeter on the edge of the nest. With one a college freshman and one a high school senior, the milestones come daily and it’s all a bit overwhelming. For the most part, I am able to focus on the positive and enjoy this season of new found independence – I’m doing OK (until I’m not).

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This particular day at Bible study, I was commenting on a scripture passage that we had recently looked up. It was Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece – created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” While reading this scripture out loud, the words caught in my throat and I had to pause and pull myself together. You see, I have always wanted to be a Mom. Knowing very little what it would actually involve, the idea of raising littles was a tad magical to me.  I felt that God was in agreement, since He blessed us with 4 stinky butt babes. But now, as my children have grown, I tend to wonder a little bit more about these “good works” that are meant for me. They aren’t so obvious anymore. I’m still busy, yes. Feeling productive, yes. But I am lacking that sense of being needed, feeling necessary – and frankly,  this feeling is not the greatest. What else does God have planned for me? To be clear, my concern is less whether or not He does have plans for me, but will I love these new plans as much as  I loved being a Mama to littles?!

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I read before, that in order to deal with our pain and uncertainties, we need to lean in. What does leaning in look like? For me, it looks like sorting through boxes of outgrown clothing and pouring over scrapbooks containing pictures of years gone by. It’s sitting attentively as your senior debates between colleges , when all you really want to do is pull her onto your lap and read her a Golden book. It’s repainting bedroom walls from bubble gum pink to sophisticated grey. It’s talking with other parents about how to let go, while holding tight at the same time. And it’s tears – sometimes expected, but often an embarrassing surprise. It’s a big messy box of acceptance wrapped with a sloppy bow of denial on top. Even though we experienced these emotions just last year, we are still novices at this whole “watching your child grow up” gig. 

I don’t think anyone should ever have to explain themselves when they are leaning in. It takes a lot of extra effort and is very important. It looks differently for everyone, but is crucial for all of us. Don’t think you can skip over tough things and hope it won’t catch up with you. It will. I’ve tried to ignore things, it doesn’t end well. 

So what about you? Are you avoiding a tough situation right now? Or are you leaning in? Please know that I’m here – online if nothing else – if you’d also like to lean on me!

 

 

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My biggest character flaw…

Everyone is good at something. We all have an area in which we excel. Some are extremely creative, organized or out going. Others are great at hosting, event planning or dealing with financial matters. It’s important to know where your skill sets are, and how they can help you succeed. On the other hand, it’s equally important to know the areas in our lives that need improvement. I am AWFUL at asking for help. Really bad at it. Seriously, I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than admit I need assistance or can’t handle something. Being stubborn only makes this worse, and gets me in more trouble. Every. Time.  I have several examples of situations that should have changed my mind about asking for help from others. But apparently, I’m a slow learner. I need to be repeatedly shown that I’m not capable of “going it alone”, nor should I even try that route. God provides these opportunities for growth frequently because He knows this is my weak spot.

Despite my inability to request help, one of my very favorite things to do is offer help to others. To see a need and fill it. To witness a struggle and make it easier for someone else to bear. The world is chock full of chances to assist others, and I love to jump right in! So – if I find joy in helping others, why do I refuse such help from my friends? Crazy. When I see the question on paper, I feel silly and shake my head. But still, I struggle. To bring a meal, pick up a child from practice, watch a toddler so a sick mama can rest – all of that would be appreciated … but would it be accepted if offered? I know I’m not the only one that tries to do it alone.

Pride. It’s a dirty word. It’s my biggest character flaw. I’m too proud to admit when life is indeed getting the best of me, or when I’m just trying to keep my head above water. There have been times that I didn’t know how I would possibly juggle all that needed to be accomplished. Those that know me, understand this – and help anyways. Their help is given in various ways. A text that contains a funny meme or an instant message that insists I am stronger than I believe.  Sometimes, it’s a meal delivered when I am unable to care for my family. Please note – help with my family and I will NEVER forget your kindness. These gestures mean the world to me, so why do I feel like sharing my burdens with those that love me is selfish? Why can’t I accept their love, smile and hug them and move on? How do I so easily forget the joy it brings me when I help others? The best part of friendship is helping each other through our most difficult days. The sickness of our children, the stress of marriage, the caring for our aging parents, the chaos of our typical Tuesday. We all have areas that we could use help in.

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Let’s make a deal. Let’s all be more honest with each other (especially on Fakebook, oops, Facebook).  Let’s try our best to be open about what we encounter that is threatening our sanity . We could even admit when we need an extra set of hands, or one less day of carpool commitment. Less guilt and less perfection. More community and more compassion. I can’t wait to help you out! My guess is that we will all benefit.

My word for 2017 ….

For several years now, I choose one word that I attempt to focus on throughout the year.I am not one to make resolutions – mostly because I prefer short term goals over long term goals (I get distracted entirely too easily). Having a word or concept to pay particular attention to for the entire year allows me the chance to look at the various ways and areas that the definition of the word works in my life. For me, it works.

In 2016, I chose the word release. I felt that it was time for me to start letting go. Of what, you may wonder? Of lots of things, starting with clutter – stuffed closets, overflowing drawers, unloved knick knacks and more. Once the physical “stuff” was taken care of, I shifted my priorities to feelings, relationships and expectations that needed to be released. This wasn’t as easy as taking a garbage bag into the closet, but it was even more important. Letting go of these things frees us from the heaviness it creates – a heavy heart has trouble finding happiness. I worked hard on paying attention to the things that were causing me stress and attempted to change the way I dealt with these people, issues or situations. At the end of 2016, when my book was delayed – I needed to release all of my anxiety that was created by this overwhelmingly frustrating event. I was forced to let go of my plans and dreams of selling during the Christmas season and change gears for the future. At first, I wondered if my word would serve me well for 12 whole months. In the end, I could have easily used this word for another entire year – but instead decided to build off of it.

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For 2017, I chose the word acceptance. I figured that since I had devoted a year to cleansing my life from negative habits, people and situations that I could not control, I should follow up with a year of learning how to live with what I can not change – and making the best of it. In June of 2017, my first born is graduating from high school. This is something that consumes my thoughts and much of my energy right now as we fill out college application, cap and gown forms, take senior pictures and plan for his graduation party. In the back of my mind, I fully understand (logically) that he is growing up . I hear his deep voice, see his facial hair and watch him drive away in his car as he heads to work. Yet – I haven’t fully accepted it. I think I am still in denial. I need to focus on how proud I am of him and his accomplishments, instead of how sad I am that he is leaving. Time will help, and so will seeing his excitement about his college days ahead of him. It’s all a matter of accepting it, right?  Being a parent is sort of crappy like that.

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Acceptance is also important in regards to how I manage the areas of my life that just aren’t “my favorite”. I think we all have things and people we absolutely must deal with that we wish we could JUST. NOT. The thought alone makes us cringe, but it doesn’t make the issue or relationship go away. So now what? ACCEPTANCE. To be clear – the definition of acceptance is “the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered” (according to the online dictionary). No where does it state that I have to LIKE it in order to ACCEPT it….right? My goal is to accept a few of the things that I can not control (like my babies growing up and leaving me) and search for the good – something positive – something that will make me smile and not pull my hair out. We can all use a bit more sunshine and a few less clouds. My wish for you is that you find a word that helps you in more ways than one this year. Please let me know what your word is once you know it – I love to hear how my friends are working to improve their lives!