Sunday, April 9, 2017

Currently: April 2017

Feeling: Refreshed after an enjoyable spring break spent in Georgia with family. The children handled the 11-hour drive well (both ways!) and I got to visit with some folks I haven't seen in a while. And we all seem to be finally recovered from the longest cold/cough ever, AND spring seems to have made its way to Indiana. Win-win-win!

Listening/Watching: Many Beautiful Things documentary about the artist and missionary Lilias Trotter, with music composed by one of my absolute favorite musicians Sleeping at Last. The story of Lilias's life accompanied by gorgeous music is so beautiful to savor and enjoy.

Accomplishing: As much as I can. There's always a catch-up period after vacation, so I'll be doing double-duty (read: late night work hours) to make sure everything gets taken care of. I am so grateful for a job that allows me to have a flexible schedule, and a range of clients that allow for balancing my work load to fit in mini-vacations throughout the year!

Needing: A housekeeper? My carpet and tile floors are a mess and my poor dog still thinks the dining room is the ideal place for midnight mess-making. :( I have a hard time setting aside the necessary hours to really clean/scrub the way I know this place needs aside from quick sweep and mop sessions.... any volunteers?

Planning: Meals with my favorite new app Mealime! It makes meal planning for the week ahead a total breeze, complete with fast, healthy options and a grocery checklist. Plus, a trip to Chicago at the end of this month to see a favorite band, Branches. And summer travel plans for weddings and family reunions!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Learning To Say No (and getting over FOMO)

This phrase has been on my mind a lot lately. And specifically how it applies to my roles as wife, mother, business owner, artist (the list goes on). As we grow older and discover our talents and preferences, opportunities abound. And for many, many years, it was in my best interest to pursue as many as I could! Making new friends, joining new clubs, trying a different sport, accepting challenging jobs, traveling to new cities and foreign countries.... why say NO? These opportunities turn into wonderful, unforgettable experiences. Saying YES has some incredible benefits. 

But, somewhere along the way, it got harder and harder to say no. Saying yes became the default for me and, if you know my personality, that's not a good thing. I am a self-proclaimed people pleaser, and when it comes to saying NO, that can make life pretty stressful. I've come to dread social or work situations where I would have to express some variance of the negative, and it has gotten me into some pretty tight situations with friends, family, co-workers and clients. And recently, I've recognized that something that needs to change.

It's probably one of the first words that I learned and yet, nearly 30 years later, it's become one of the hardest words to say.

No is such a simple word, but it has so many implications. We hear it a lot in childhood: "No talking in church. No TV on a school night. No hitting your sister!" No is an important word for settings boundaries with children. And I never liked hearing it! But I also never fully comprehended how hard it would be to say it to my own children. It's so simple, right? Just say NO and that's the end of it. Not quite... they keeping asking. Again. And again. And again. But it never occurred to me (until now) that denying my children proves to be just a much about denying myself. It's not easy. When they ask for the millionth time to watch cartoons when they really should be playing outside, it would be so easy for me to give in and glue them to the TV so I can get some stuff done. But is what really what's best for them? Or me? The harder choice tends to be the better one. Why does it always work out that way? Parenting is a microcosm of life and has taught me so much about myself in 3 short years, shining a giant spotlight on my flaws and shortcomings. I can't imagine what I'll learn in the next 30 years... But what it's showing me now is that saying no is a difficult, but vital, choice that often is better for everyone in the long run.

Saying no doesn't always have to mean self-denial, but it can often mean a perceived negative impact on those around you. I finally realized that, for the longest time, my fear of saying no was what might be commonly termed as FOMO (fear of missing out). How could I possibly say no when this opportunity is full of potential for ________? (Fill in the blank with fun, learning, money, networking, the greater good, whatever it may be). I've attended social events, joining nonprofit boards, taken on clients, and generally added to my workload by saying yes because I thought if I said no I would really be missing out. But, when I realized days, weeks or months later, that I wasn't fully committed to the project/group/event, and my efforts were not 100%, the time dedicated was draining my energy of other worthy causes, and causing me to feel resentment, the original rush of YES has left a bitter taste in my mouth. I said yes because I thought they needed me, that it wouldn't get done without me, or that I would be missing out on something if I didn't. The truth? The world will go on turning without my efforts. Things will still get done, the party will start and finish and I won't be a less fulfilled person for not attending.

It's a strange realization to come to, discovering that after many years of life expanding and filling hours with every new opportunity (which is a good and wonderful thing), it whittles back down to just the necessities, what's really important. I have discovered a sense of contentment in knowing that I may be missing out on one thing while I'm treasuring another. Like rocking my babies to sleep instead of meeting friends to try a new restaurant or attend a business networking event. Priorities change as our lives change, and learning when and how to say no is part and parcel of that. An enthusiastic 5 years ago may be a hard NO now. And that's okay. Just because the opportunity is there, doesn't mean we have to take it. A big part of this is trusting that God places opportunities in our lives for a reason -- and learning the wisdom to accept or reject them is often about giving up control.

Adulthood offers so many privileges and it's easy to get used to the power of yes, controlling what comes into our lives and "leaning in" to everything life has to offer, as the popular book would say. (More on that? Check out this article) But what I realized is that every yes, comes with a no. There's only so many hours in the day, and you can't be two places at once. When the yes means that other people or projects in my life will suffer, it must become a no. This means thinking a little longer and harder about making decisions. It means planning out priorities and focusing on necessities. It affects budgeting, parenting, social life, spiritual life and mental health. And as I learn to trust that God will provide the right opportunities, even when I say no to something that sounds wonderful, I am discovering a new sense of freedom and peace in decision-making that could never co-exist with FOMO. Fear of missing out? More like Finally Opposing More Opportunities. I'm not sure that one will catch on, but you get it, right?

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 

1 Corinthians 10:23

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Am I There Yet?

When I was young (like, elementary school young), being in my thirties sound so old. Practically middle aged. Only parents are in their thirties. Being in your thirties means you're really an ADULT. An old fuddy-duddy. Until a certain point, in your late teens maybe, when "your thirties" take on a sort of futuristic glamour. In my thirties, I'll be settled, secure, stylish, confident. All the magazines say so. Oh, and rich. Definitely rich. The teenage years are for angst; your twenties for exploring and self-expression. But the thirties... by then, you'll have everything figured out. Right?

Reality check: I turned 30 six months ago. And I keep asking myself: have I hit those magical "thirties" yet? I think if I have to ask, then the answer is probably no. I still question pretty much every decision, from what I eat for breakfast to what clothes I wear and how I parent my children or communicate with my spouse. I'm still not quite sure what my personal style is, or even if I've decided what my favorite color is. Today. Because, it could all change tomorrow or next week. I do recognize in personality a bit of a romantic penchant for reinventing myself, and I'll just chalk up to my artistic soul, but it certainly doesn't help when I decide I'm old enough to really figure out who I am.

But the more I ask myself these questions and look for where I'm fitting into that "perfect 30" mold, these less confident I feel in how far I've come. Because, in 30 years, I'm bound to have figured out something.... right? HA If I have to ask, the answer is probably no. I still have many of the same flaws I've struggled with since youth; I still have a hard time saying 'no' (I'm a chronic people-pleaser); I struggle with focus and clarity in decision-making; and I'm always better at starting a project than finishing it. Am I confident in what these traits make me as a person? Nope. And I don't think I should be. I think life is about striving for better. Not necessarily more (the flaw of the American dream), just better. Because that is what God calls us to be.

"For it is written: be holy, because I am holy." 1 Peter 1:16

Sounds like it gets a lot harder, rather than easier. Like running a marathon, rather than a race. And there's a lot more humility before the finish line than there is confidence. So, the magazines were wrong. I know my flaws better now than I did when was 20, though I'm not quite sure that makes me any more secure or successful as a person. So are we really surprised that Cosmo got it wrong (again)? Not really. A magazine will never give you a standard higher than self. If anything, I've lost more of my "self" than I've gained in the last few years and that's truly a positive. As we die to self, leaving behind the trappings of the world we were born into, we become more alive in Christ (1 Timothy 4:7, Galatians 3:27). 

It's still so easy to get caught up in that dream self-image -- the sexy, confident, beautiful reflection we long to see. But it's also easy to get bogged down in the failures. The ways we don't live up or our dreams don't pan out. Our calling is beyond both of these. Learning and growing in Christ, not just in the ways of personal style, or parenting expertise, or artistic mastery. All of those things are well and good, but a full life will never be found solely in them. Falling out of love with self, and in love with Him is our life's purpose. And it's hard. It probably will continue to feel like I'm struggling with my sense of self and decision-making. I will probably still be wondering 10 years from now (in the dreaded "fourties") if I've finally found my place. But I'm pretty sure all that questioning, struggling, and striving just means I'm doing it right. Losing the battle of self means relying on the Lord for answers. Trusting in His providence above all else. And that's thriving.

"I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14