And so it begins…

So today was Monkey’s first day of Kindergarten. I mean, really. Time is flying in the most annoying and awesome way.

Here’s documentation that I’m getting older and so is she:

IMG1066995295

As a mom, people never tell you that it would be possible to feel multiple simultaneous emotions all at the same time at any given moment regarding the same person.  For instance, this morning dropping her off at school, I felt both excited and scared. Relieved and terrified. A little sad and incredibly proud.

And also…..wanting to choke her for not brushing her teeth when I asked and in awe of how cute she was in her uniform. Or irritated at her snails pace of getting ready while also admiring her laid back approach to everything life. I envy that.

But when all was said and done, the only thing that was a constant during all of this, and has remained since I embarked on this journey…is an overwhelming sense of peace.

Peace that I made the right decision. Peace that I am walking in God’s will. Peace that I am doing the right thing for myself and for Monkey. And peace that I will not fail.

And not surprisingly, a lot of folks have been asking what in the world made me do something like this in the first place. The questions have been non-stop. And understandably so. Some out of concern, some out of curiosity. But, regardless of the motives they always understand completely in the end.

I’ve explained these reasons in previous posts, but never explained where and how this incredibly insane thought originated in the first place. I’ve presented my experience in numbered list format, because apparently people like lists. So here you go:

1) I was praying in my prayer closet. Yes, I actually have a closet that I go into to pray. I write prayers on the wall. I talk with my Father. I listen. I cry. I cry out. I smile. I complain. I repent. I express gratitude. And so on and so forth. If you are a mom, or a human, I recommend you get one. It is the only place on planet Earth where I can meet Him face to face without distractions.

2) I was praying about something completely unrelated to homeschool. Possibly sprinkles and unicorns. Or maybe it was bacon and doughnuts. I hear there’s an impending shortage.

3) There was a pressing, heavy thought of homeschooling. Not an audible voice.  No thunderbolts and flashes of lightning.

4) I ignored it because….well just because I thought bacon was more important at the moment.

5) I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind for days. At that moment, I knew I was ducking and dodging on purpose. Don’t do that. He’ll just keep pestering you.

6) I researched and Googled because that’s what good millenials do.

7) I found a couple schools and Googled some more.

8) I doubted.

9) I went to some open houses, and felt peace. Overwhelming peace that hasn’t left since.

10) I gave in and decided I didn’t know more than the One who created me. Still not sure why this is so hard for humans.

11) Monkey had her first day of school today and I in no way regret steps 1-10 or doubt God’s hand or his presence in every aspect.

12) I might feel differently about 1-11 after tomorrow because it’s our first actual homeschool day. Yikes.

Doubting God

5-ways-to-stop-self-doubt-in-its-tracksI have to admit that I am scared.  The new school year is quickly approaching (Monkey’s first day is August 23d!) and I feel like I am ill prepared to take this on.  I’m scared of failing to educate her the way she deserves.  I’m scared of failing financially in my business and then having to take a more full-time position and therefore quit homeschooling.  

And here’s a kicker….I’m scared of succeeding and not being able to handle it well.  With humility, grace, and gratitude.  Even though that may seem like a silly notion, I’m sure you all can relate.  You know the situations where you’ve been praying fervently for something, waiting  patiently and with expectation.  Then it finally arrives and you either feel like it’s too good to be true, so you ignore or deny God’s hand in the circumstances.  Or you start feeling yourself a little too much, forget to give God the glory.  Or somehow forget to keep seeking God in your success and things eventually fall apart.

Either way, I have to shake off this fear.  I have to walk in confidence that His promises are not empty.  And it is hard, but not impossible.  It is a moment to moment, and sometimes second to second decision to choose trust.  Even in the process of writing this post, I’ve volleyed back and forth between the two extremes – choosing to stand in belief or fall victim to giving up.

But one thing I can say is that I’ve never seen Him fail.  Ever.  Even in those times where I felt abandoned or was caught up in how things “didn’t work out,” I can look back and say He was there, with me every doubt-filled step despite my emotional misgivings.  The times I thought my world was falling apart were actually just opportunities for me to return to the path He had set rather than trying to carry on in my own, destructive ways.

So for those of you who are waiting on something, whether big or small.  Or are discouraged because you feel like you are alone or that He’s forgotten about you, I beg you not to let your emotions win.  Not to let your lack of control during these times determine how you will proceed.  Not to let your lack of patience result in settling for less.

And even if things don’t turn out the way you thought they would, or the picture didn’t quite develop as quickly as expected, that does not mean He has failed you.  Because “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake” (2 Peter 3:9).  Not because he’s trying to punish you, but because He knows best.  If He didn’t He wouldn’t be God.

So what will you choose today?  Trust and surrender?  Or fear and despair?

First Dates at the Piggly Wiggly

So I’m originally from Detroit.  Home of the Bad Boys (that would be the 90s Piston’s for those lacking knowledge of the real NBA).  Neighbor to the Canadians, aye.

But my mom’s family is from the South.  Like the for real for real South.  Where they had garage sales and farmer’s markets before they were a faddish, pretentious thing.  And during summer months I used to go down south (that’s what I called it back then) to visit my great grandmother, grandmother, cousins, etc.  But on some days it was just me and my great grandmother, or MaDear, as we call her.

No.  Not this MaDear:

tyler-perry-difficult-work-with
Don’t stare at this too long.  It will make you dizzy.  Sorry.

But a real woman who totes Bibles and quotes scripture.  Not guns and strange advice that involves pimp slaps.  Nothing against MaDears that do, I just didn’t want you to confuse the two.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about one of my favorite pastimes when  I was in the south with MaDear.  Going to the Piggly Wiggly.

piggly-wiggly-2-copy-cropped-556x417

That’s right.  I have some of the best memories tied to our trips to that particular grocery store.  Sometimes it’s just the little things, ya know.

But thinking back on our Piggly moments, recalling recent conversations with friends, and just reflecting on my life in general gave me a crazy, but logical idea.  That Piggly Wiggly, or just any grocery store in general, would be the perfect first date location!

tumblr_inline_mt8j1iadof1ro2d43

Ohhhh, I know it’s hard to hold back your excitement.  It’s such a romantic, one-stop shop kind of first date location.  I mean, there’s food, snacks, beverages, games and toys.  Everything you need.  Besides all those gems, I have a few other reasons why this idea is legit.  Here we go:

1)You will get an up close and personal view of how they treat strangers

Ever see those guys who yap on the phone while the cashier is attempting to check them out?  Rude.  Or the man who yells at the customer service representative over something that’s out of their control? And theeeeen for some reason, they try to get others standing in line with them to band together for The Cause?  Nah bruh.  Or the one who doesn’t say please or thank you to the employees who took time to help?  Ugh.

Would you date a man who did any of the above?  I thought not.  If that guy walked up to you and asked you out on a date after any of those things went down I’m sure you would run for the hills.

Problem is, most jerkholes like this are typically on their best behavior when escorting you to a nice restaurant or to the movies.  If you’re not careful, you’ll miss the jerkhole red flags for days.  Even months.  Don’t get fooled.  Take that dude to the Piggly Wiggly.

2) You will get some clues as to how they spend their money

Here’s a news flash for you.  I’m cheap frugal.  I have a budget.  I strive to spend my money wisely, buying mostly things I need and rarely splurging on things I want.  Student loans and kids will do this to your life.

So one thing I pay close attention to in a man is where he chooses to spend his money.  If your treasure is constantly in brand names, big ticket items, and extravagant living, we probably won’t work out.  I mean that’s not a 100% certainty, but at least an 88% chance that he won’t have a chance.

Now that I’ve gotten those out of the way, let’s get to the most important reason why grocery store dates are the future.

3) You will get to see whether he returns his cart to the corral

This.  This really grinds my gears.  I mean, really.  How hard is it to take maybe 10 more steps to put your cart where it belongs?  Oh, and this is my favorite:

12647151_10103293218765018_5626813279019596505_n

The ones who decide to gather their carts on the curb near and oh so close to the corral, but just can’t muster the energy to take it a step further.  Monsters.  Would you want to date someone this lazy?  This shockingly oblivious to their own selfishness?

I’ve actually been propositioned by The Non-Cart Corraler while he was attempting to park his cart everywhere but the corral.  True story.  And trust me.  You don’t want to date this guy, either.

To round this out, it’s obvious that I’m sort of (not) kidding about having first dates at the Piggly Wiggly.  And I’m also sort of (not at all) kidding about the above points.  But what I am trying to say is that the way your potential mate treats others, buries his treasures, and whether he puts his cart back in the corral (I swear this translates into real world red flags) are first impressions that should carry serious weight.

Basically, first dates at the grocery store would be a perfect screening process.  So for that guy that wants to get to know you better, hold him to the fire.  The Piggly Wiggly fire.

Until next time, stay vigilant and aware, girl.  And put back your darn grocery carts.

A Moment of Silence

Today, I cried.  I mean, really cried.

After all the videos, photos, and media coverage of murder as if they were muffled afterthoughts and not the loss of actual people.  After watching a son cry out for his father with wordless groaning only the Spirit can comprehend.  After not feeling anything for years and moving on to the next moment with not even a hint of apathy.  I finally cried.  I finally mourned.  I finally felt angry.

Angry because we used to take moments of silence.  Now we abuse those moments with opinions, criticism, ‘fact finding,’ and political agendas.  There is no longer true, honorable, and sincere reverence and mourning.  Our grief only lasts long enough for the next story (or the next #murder) to load on our constantly updated feed.

And when I woke up this morning I’d finally had enough.  I was heavy in ways that a person feels when the only place they have to fall is at the feet of the Father.

Have you felt that?  I mean have you truly felt that for Alton Sterling? Sandra Bland?  Freddie Gray?  Trayvon Martin?  The victims in Orlando?

Or were you too preoccupied with finding evidence of resisting?  Too set on revealing reasons why they deserved it?  Too busy trying to determine where you stood on the political side of the spectrum?  Or were you too worried about preserving your reputation by making sure you weren’t standing on the ‘wrong’ side?

Well, I know what side I stand on.  And right now I stand in mourning.  And I’d like to continue taking these moments to feel that heaviness I felt today.  To bear the burden.  And to let that grief make me uncomfortable enough to break silence and effect change.  To let that grief be an impetus for provoking conversations.  Honest exchanges where I relay my fears for my children.  And people actually understand those very real anxieties without judgement or belittlement of my reality.

Because when you shake off the numbness, what follows is not bliss or gratitude for being awakened from your stupor.  It is a sobering awareness that you have been standing still and letting headlines slide off your conscious in order to maintain the appearance of neutral.  And if you are a believer, you have no room for neutral.

Because here’s a cliche for you:  What would Jesus do?  Would he be neutral?  Meh.  History says otherwise.

My guess is he would weep and mourn with those who mourned.  Or maybe he would be table flipping Jesus.  Angry Jesus is my personal fave.  Because he never stood for trampling the downtrodden.  He never stood for injustice.  He never stood for making excuses.  And the Jesus who wept is also the same one whose love for us drove him to anger in the face of anything that stood in contradiction to the Father.

Overall, my purpose is not to incite outrage.  Or, perhaps, it is.  But not hate filled rage that overflows into riots and division.  Just anger that leads to understanding between a people that are better at throwing insults and statistics instead of creating safe spaces for compassion.  The anger that is borne out of love for one another.  The kind of anger that unifies.

So if you’re not angry yet, maybe you should reconsider your position.

Heaven is for real…and it’s in Duluth.

As you all know, I have been freaking out majorly over homeschooling Monkey next school year.  Which is not next year at all because school starts in August.  Tricky.

Anyways, in order to prepare myself financially and make sure I won’t take a huge hit when it’s time for me to cut back work hours, I have been working like an indentured servant.  Filling in at other people’s practices and networking like crazy to grow my business.  So if you see me, and it’s a day of the week, you can guarantee I’ve worked at some point that day.

In my mind, I keep reassuring myself that this period won’t last forever and that once summer is over I’ll have more time to spend with Monkey…and with myself.  But this week I got to a point where I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I needed an escape.  A retreat.  A freakin’ break.

So I went to Jeju Sauna: Home of Wellbeing in Duluth.  Just the name alone made it sound like it was made for me.  Home of Wellbeing?  Sold.

jejulogo1

So on a Monkey-less day, I went through the doorways of Jeju and did not depart until 5 hours later.  It was like a major time warp.  There are no windows or passages to the outside world so you feel like it’s infinitely noon o’clock.  I hopped from sauna to sauna, ate, fell asleep twice, prayed and meditated, stretched, and walked out like:

169b7cd398477601a1e934588583d6

But, in all semi-seriousness, I realized a few things in my 5 hour trek to the motherland.

Living with Purpose and Intention Requires Sacrifice

When you’re stuffing your life with busyness, working all the time, or just living your life for a paycheck, you will miss moments that truly matter.  Your relationship with God suffers.  You suffer.  Your kids suffer.  Your friendships suffer.  Basically, everything suffers.  And ironically enough, sometimes even your finances suffer.  I’ve noticed that the more I worked, the more money I made, the less I paid attention to where that money was going.  Sad but true and incredibly common.

On the other hand, when you’re living with purpose and intention you don’t mind sacrificing those extra hours on the job if it means making it to your kid’s baseball game or recital.  Or having girls night.  Or creating a budget.  Or going to the Home of Wellbeing.

Someone please take me back.

You see, there were a million things on my to do list.  There still are.  But in those 5 hours I didn’t care.  I sacrificed my to do list for my sanity.  And it was worth it.

Technology has ruined our definition of relaxation

When I say the word ‘relaxation’ what comes to mind?  Probably something like this:

1
He’s not even looking at the waves, for goodness sake!

And that, folks, is sad.  Why are we so attached to our phones, iPads, laptops, devices?

Before I even walked into Jeju, I was going with the intentions of leaving my phone and other electronics in the locker.  I wanted to not be found.  Apparently, I was the only one who felt this way.

I kid you not, the first sauna I walked into was filled with iPhone lookers, Instagram scrollers, and Tweeters.  And for some reason it made me extra mad.  I just couldn’t believe that someone would come to a Home of Wellbeing and bring connections to everything that caused their being not to be well in the first place.  The nerve.

My definition of relaxation includes completely breaking free, disconnecting, being unavailable.  Call me old school, but I relish the thought of being able to turn my phone off, not have wifi, and just…be.

But for some reason we are scared to be alone with our own thoughts.  Either because we have no thoughts of our own since we’re being fed the thoughts of others 24/7.  Or because our thoughts about ourselves are so ugly we would rather scroll through Facebook in the home of wellbeing than face and defeat these lies (John 8:44).

But here’s the truth: You are a friend – John 15:15.  You are free – Galatians 5:1.  You are known – Jeremiah 1:5. You are beautiful – Psalm 139:14.  You are chosen – Ephesians 1:4. 

And that’s real.  What’s also real is that I don’t think those devices were made for extreme heat.  So their phones and tablets are probably messed up now.  I hope they learned their lesson.  Nah.

Saying no is good for your health

If you’re anything like me, you say yes to a lot.  Yes to being on this committee.  Yes to attending this event.  Yes to volunteering for this project.  But maybe you should start saying no as many times as you say yes.  Not this kind of no:

200_s

Just the kind that makes it clear to people that although you value what they’re doing, you also value making yourself and your family a priority.  Most people won’t hate you for that.  If they do, then the above ‘no’ is perfectly fine for that individual.

And speaking of priorities:

You are your second priority (After God, that is).

Some people won’t like this.  I don’t care.  Because I don’t mean this in a selfish, only think about yourself, ugly way.  I mean this in a “when I’m stressed and crazy my kids are stressed out and crazy” kind of way.  For those of you who are parents and have dealt with emotional, crying, stressed out kids you know as much as I do that they are like Gremlins immersed in water.  Meaning they’re not the cute, furry one.

9cf2e55b18fe290d64cd34e444cf7d2b
This is your kid on stress.  Avoid this by taking care of yourself.

As parents (especially us moms) we tend to put our kids first pretty much every moment of the day.  When we do this, we put ourselves at risk.  Which is ok, and what being a mom is all about sometimes.  But this shouldn’t happen every time.  Because when I’m stressed, I snap more often.  When I’m tired, I don’t listen as well. When I’m worried, she can feel it and it makes her worry for me.  And then she makes this face and I can’t deal:

c0bdbfc1f207b75c989557dc6495ad5a

When you’re giving so much of yourself all the time, you will eventually run out.  And then what?  What’s left to give your kids if they run your mind, calendar, and social life?  So I’m begging all of the moms out there to make yourself a priority.  Make taking care of your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing one of the most important parts of your day.  That’s a plug for Jeju Sauna: Home of Wellbeing, by the way.

And coming from someone who was once a kid, I definitely saw those moments when my mother put herself first and I respected that.  I needed to see that.

Besides the above mentioned points, I also realized that I will never work like this again.  Ever.  And that I must make Jeju a monthly habit.  It’s only $25.  That’s like 3 lunches.  Or 4 cups of coffee for all you Starbucks lovers (ew…).  Twenty five dollars for hours of uninterrupted bliss.

So go ahead and take a trip to Heaven…in Duluth.  You might just find yourself walking out like:

nx1ad_s-200x150

No lie.  No exaggeration.  Until next time, stay prioritized.

Christianity for Introverts: A 4 Step Guide (Sort of)

I am an introvert.  Some who know me would never believe that.  Which is probably mostly due to the fact that people assume introverts are always quiet, shy, and don’t know how to hold a conversation.

a48007b4547b85f95f62c464b1e48d6d

That is false.  So stop thinking that.

For me, being an introvert means that I enjoy speaking to others and holding meaningful (read: MEANINGFUL) conversations.  But at a certain point I will have reached my threshold.  I will have maxed out my words and ability to tolerate groups of people or even individuals for the day.  Not meaning that I dislike them, I just need to retreat in order to regain my sanity.

This may sound harsh to you extroverted folk, but it’s all about how we recharge our batteries.  For extroverts, they feel at their best when with others and in social situations.  I feel energized when I get home and can be alone with my own thoughts, Netflix, and a good book.  No hard feelings. 

3-e1455075717748

So although I’ve enjoyed my life as an introvert thus far, there are some challenges I’ve had to overcome when becoming an introverted follower of Christ.  I know I can’t be the only introvert out there struggling with these things, so I thought I would write out my top tips for those trying to maintain Christianity without losing their introverted minds.  Feel free to read on your own….or with others.

1)Don’t shy away from community…pun intended

This is something I learned the hard way, but probably the most important.  Since my natural instinct is to retreat, it can become almost second nature to go about daily life without talking to anyone.  However, when our life’s goal is to seek to be more like Christ, we can’t do that without the help of others.  No matter how hard you try, having deep and intimate friendships and a community of believers surrounding you is crucial to your faith.  Because if your community is anything like mine, then not only are they awesome but they aren’t afraid to either break you down or build you up when necessary.  You see, true friends are like mirrors.  Sometimes we need a mirror held up to our ugliness and other times we need a hand or even a set of arms to carry us through this thing called life (Galatians 6:2).  When we look in the mirror we see one of two things: perfection or just a shameful pile of mess.  When a trusted community looks at us, they see beauty despite the flaws.  Have you ever tried picking yourself up?  It’s not only physically impossible, but spiritually impossible, as well (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).  So even though my alone time is necessary and frequent, I never underestimate the importance of keeping good company as often as possible.

2) It’s ok to tell others your business

Now before you get all suspicious of this one, what I really mean is that it’s ok to tell a trusted person or group of believers your business.  Not everyone.  You can’t and shouldn’t go around telling Keisha, Becky, Rob, and Chuck about the deepest, darkest parts of your little life.  If your most trusted companions are named Keisha, Becky, Rob, or Chuck then I retract my previous statement.  But everyone should have someone who knows most things about them.  Why?  Because accountability doth a better, smarter, wiser, and awesomer person make (Proverbs 27:17, 15:22). 

3) Say “Yes” to social gatherings at least 60% of the time…or thereabouts

This one might be a stretch for some of us, but you should at least give it a try.  Hear me out, folks.  When you’re by yourself the majority of the time (ie more than 50%, hence the plea for just starting with 60% yeses), isolation can breed habits.  They can be habits like crafting, knitting, or scrapbooking.  Or they can be habits like sexting your ambiguous friend-guy-person, spending 13 unproductive hours on social media, or watching porn (Proverbs 18:1).  Can you do these things with other people?  Sure, but highly unlikely when you’re saying yes to your handy dandy group of believers.  And last time I checked, most people do the bulk of their sinning when they’re alone so as to pretend like they’re perfect in front of others.  Sooooo let’s get our social time percentages up.   

4) Don’t be ashamed to still take time to retreat

It is useless to push a cart sideways.  In other words, I am in no way trying to convince you to become more extroverted or change the way God made you (or me for that matter).  I simply wanted to share some things I’ve struggled with as a believer and an introvert and how I’ve noticed that my faith tends to slip the most when I’m trying to do life separate from my community.  But I also know that every person – introvert, extrovert, ambivert, or whatever kind of ‘vert you are – needs to have time to connect one on one with the Father.  Outside of your community.  Jesus modeled this for us over and over again, and we would do well to follow his lead (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16).  Just don’t stay there longer than necessary, mmmkay?

Until next time, stay social my friends.

And I’ll add this just because it’s funny….and true:

why-introverts-are-like-cats