Chronicling 40: Day 27 of 365

I really wish these were better pictures, sorry Faith!  However this was too great a meeting not to share.  Faith had no idea as she was speaking to us about branding, that she was going to have such a major impact on my activities for today.

 

For those who don’t know Faith James, she is a Branding Expert… with incredible credentials.  I’ve been attending her lunch workshops as our ministry has entered it’s next phase, which includes national expansion.

A few workshops ago, we were instructed to score our brand based on her index.  I turned this index into a to-do list, which has grown quite a bit.  One of the things in the index was to volunteer to serve on the board of an organization.  Well, I checked that off and will be serving officially on the board for YouMom, a ministry that serves women facing unplanned pregnancy.

Yesterday, at the lunch, Faith was extraordinary as always.  But, there were a few key points that was so important to the work in store for me today.

  1.  Everything you put out into the world needs to reflect the core of your brand.
  2.  It must be consistent and clear.  It is our job to make sure our clients get it.
  3.  Articulate the why behind your brand, as well as why you are the right choice.

But also, she shared her heart.  How much she enjoys what she does, serving others, helping others.

Today, I was with the founder of YouMom serving the ministry by helping launch a new website, full of content, pictures, etc.  It was such a joy to work with Aimee today, and help her vision come to life.  To take the knowledge that Faith was gifting me yesterday and pass it on to Aimee’s ministry is beautiful.  When we do not hold on to our gifts and talents but instead share them; we get to watch it reach further than we could ever imagine!

So, there I was today… basking in the joy of helping others with my gifts and talents… which were fined tuned by Faith’s wisdom and experience.

That, is a good day.

I say all of this not to toot my own horn… but for two important reasons…

  1.  Thankfulness.  I am thankful beyond measure for God’s intersection of my path and Faith.
  2.  Affirmation.  Those who gift of their hearts, skills, and treasure don’t always get to see how it is used.  I want Faith to know that her investment in me is not wasted, but fruitful.

I encourage those of you who have someone investing in your life, helping you to bear fruit…

Do not just give a passing thanks, but instead show them the fruit of their labor.  Let them see what they have sewn into fertile soil.  Let them know that you have not hoarded their gift for yourself, but graciously shared it with the world, investing into others.

This brings to mind the parable of the talents.  Do not bury in the ground that which you can multiply.  Use your gifts, share your talents, and spread the wealth that is love, compassion, encouragement, and equipping!

Chronicling 40: Day 22 of 365

laund

In my most wonderful of dreams… I’d have a basement laundry room.  On the one side would be a bank of washers, on the other side a bank of driers.  There would be a rack for hanging clothes on a third wall, with small baskets on the ground for tossing in folded paired socks.  Then down the middle would be a long folding station.

In other words I would like a laundromat in my house.  Not because I have a fondness for coin operated laundry centers, but because I absolutely LOATHE laundry.  Unless you are a family of nudists it is the one chore that is never done.  Someone is always wearing something.  There is always a rogue sock under the bed or behind a door.

Back to school not only means I will see an increase in laundry, but also means that there is an expectation that I will have all the things washed on some sort of schedule.

But I hate it.  I truly do.  This is the chore I would give up easily to anyone in the house, and yet it seems to be the one that evades being assigned away. Over the years I have tried many ways to get my head in check.

I read the books that told me to find joy in the laundry as it is a blessing to have a washing machine in the first place.  I gave the “pray for the person whose laundry you are folding as you fold it” perspective check.  I washed all one one day, I dedicated to doing a load a day.

But nope… it is 19 years into marriage… and I still loathe it.  My heart has not changed.  I dream of a financial windfall that allows me to throw away every article in the house buying all new clothing.  I’ve looked into the cost of dropping the loads off at a full service laundromat, or at least certain things at the local dry cleaner.  I’ve kept the total number of pieces of clothing small, which meant I had to wash more frequently and the clothes wore out faster. I’ve expanded the wardrobe, which did result in the clothes not wearing out as fast… but it is so easy to get behind on laundry.

I’ve climbed Mount Saint Laundry.  I have the bumper sticker.  The view isn’t pretty.

My eldest starting washing her own laundry.  Let’s bask in that for a moment.

Hold on, I’m not done basking.

But there are still 4 people that I’m washing for.  Le’sigh.

Once, I purposely waited until I had a free day to do all the wash.  A full catch up.  My plan was to fold it all, then call the family into my room.  I wanted them to witness the magnitude of the laundry chore.  I also wanted them to see the small percentage of laundry that was actually mine.

My husband, bless him, thought he was being helpful and had the kids put all of their laundry away while I ran out to the store.

There was no satisfaction that day.  None.  No one got to see the glory of Mount Saint Laundry chiseled away into the neatly defined piles of softly folded clothes.

I’ve been able to bring myself to try it again.  #NotTodayMountSaintLaundry

Why don’t you turn your pants inside out?

Stop leaving crayons in your pockets!

What do you mean you need this shirt TODAY?

Oh, these stiff necked people!  No matter how many times I ask them to follow my laundry statues, their heads are turned!

So grateful that the Lord has a greater love for me than I do this laundry that is always there to be dealt with.  So grateful that the Lord has more patience and grace than I offer up to the people I serve in my home.

I am tackling Mount Saint Laundry, but the Lord is tackling Mount Sin.

Washing us, making us clean.

I’ve smudged that bright white new shirt.

I’ve torn in sorrow at the covering He knit.

Lord, forgive me for my own stiff necked ways.

Chronicling 40: Day 19 of 365

Last night, I watched this video and it really got me thinking.  (Particularly the first 2/3 of the video).

Definitely as part of my 40’s I find myself reflecting on my life, my circle of friends, and what is important to me.  How am I spending my personal time, and even where I am willing to pull time away from my family.

I think we are aware of the dangers of toxic friendships and relationships.  But, I found her perspective on ambivalent friendships very interesting.  I don’t think there is a single person who doesn’t understand there is a hierarchy to our relationships.  We have our “besties” and then our “tribe”.  These are words we hear a lot more of today, but even with new titles the relationships are the same.  This is the couple of people whom we consider our best friends, and then the core group of people that make up our closest friends.  Then we have friends and acquaintances, which range from people we consider friends but are not sharing every detail of our lives with, and those who were interact with occasionally.

I wonder in that hierarchy where the ambivalent friends fall.  Is this somewhere between acquaintance and friend, or friend and tribe?

I like how the gal in the video broke it down when she identified the way we feel about when they call.  Or, the question that she suggested as the litmus “are you every doubting if they are happy for you”.  I think these are great suggestions, but possible not the only things we could ask.

Is this person understanding of my life circumstances?

Does she care about me, or does she care about advising me?

Does she really listen to hear me, or does she listen to respond?

Has she proven to be respectful of my boundaries, or does she cross at will?

Does she have my best interest at heart?

Is she honest with me because she loves me, or is she honest with me because she is looking to tear me down?

There was a point she made in the video about how she does have friends that she can call and pitch business ideas to and will get honest feedback.  But, she knows those are not the friends who are going to be excited for her.  Confession, I know that can be me.  My brain naturally goes into business mode, and my intentions are to help the person think through their opportunity fully.  I would hope that my friends would know this about me, and understand that I mean it with good intentions.  Not everyone does, and this is why it is important to know who our friends are.  Just as much as I recognize I may not be the first one they are going to call to share their exciting news.   I’m ok with that.  We can have friends, besties even, who fulfill different roles in our lives.

That is why I think we have to look at the larger scope, and ask multiple questions.  But I do think this video opened my eyes to a feeling about friendships that I had no considered, ambivalence.

ambivalence

When we have a litmus of questions we ask, instead of depending on the answer to just one question, we can see more clearly.  One question alone isn’t going to be enough to determine if this was just a one time issue or a pattern of behavior.

But, if we are constantly gauging whether or not this person cares about us, or questioning their intentions, we have to ask if this is an ambivalent friendship.  We very clearly know who is for us, supporting us, because their overall actions show us that they care.  We also very clearly know who isn’t for us, because they have a pattern of behavior that isn’t healthy or helpful.  But ambivalent friends are dangerous because they steal our time, joy, and energy; because we never know where we stand with them.

Do you really enjoy spending time with me, or are you hear to exercise authority over me?  Am I hear just because I am someone who is available?  Am I a project you are working on?  Are you trying to change me?  Do you care about my well being?

Not that long ago, I met someone for lunch.  At the end of the lunch she made a very passive aggressive statement to me.  I caught it immediately, but was in shock that she said such a thing to me.  When I got home, I replayed the days conversation and realized this wasn’t the first time… she made little jabs during our lunch date.  Then some things said at previous lunch dates came to mind.  This is a pattern for her.

I couldn’t help but wonder, if she doesn’t like me (or if I bother her, annoy her, etc) then why does she call me in the first place?  Why does she even have lunch with me?  And then of course I had to ask myself why would I want to continue to put myself in that position, now that her patterns were clear to me.

Once your eyes are open, you begin to notice a lot of things.  I reflected on previous lunch dates where this woman would answer phone calls from other friends.  I questioned myself, how important of a friend am I to her that she interrupts our conversation to take a call that she knows can wait?  Yes, that is a more superficial question but it led me to ask deeper ones.  If she would make a passive aggressive comment to me when she knows I am in a vulnerable place, how important am I to her?

Patterns will reveal more about a person than just one question will answer.   But, this one question from the video definitely led me down a trail to really evaluate friendships that I have and what I want for the future.

Chronicling 40: Day 17 of 365

art2
2017 Collaboration Piece… painted by myself and my 10 year old daughter. 

Make art with your children.  I beg of you, do this.  You will not regret it.

Maybe you are not artistically inclined, if so… there are options for you.  There are those Sip & Paint style studios were you are directed on how to paint any number of subjects and styles.  Some are even classes designed for 2 people, where you each paint half of the finished product.  There are ceramic studios where you can paint precast ceramic pieces… work independently on a series that goes together or contribute equally to a larger piece.

Make art.  Make it often.  Display it proudly.

For several years, I’ve worked on art projects with my kids.  Most are hung up in my house, but some have been given as gifts to family members.  It brings me such joy to walk by these pieces that my kids have contributed to.

The picture at the top, that is part of this year’s project.  That was a collaborative piece with my 10 year old daughter.  Next week, my 14 year old and I begin our piece, seahorses.  We are working on a series, that will be hung in my house.  My 18 year old and I still need to figure out our piece.

If you were to come to my house, you would see a lot of art on the walls.  Almost like living in a gallery.  What you won’t know right away is that almost every single piece (minus 2 in the living room, and 2 in the bathroom) are made by members of our family.  I love being surrounded by the creative styles of my family members (on both my side of the family, and my husband’s side).

But, I am sure you are wondering how to do so in a way in which it flows with your decorating style… and that my friends is simply answered by controlled creativity.

art1
This was the family project from 3 years ago.

What do I mean by controlled creativity?  I mean that we approach every project with a plan.  Since the kids know it is for the house, they expect it is going to be coastal/beach/sealife related.  So, we discuss what each one wants to paint before we even begin.  I layout the color palette (pre-mixing if need be), give suggestions and guidance along the way.  This isn’t just about creating the final product, but also about teaching them color theory to technique.  We talk about how colors work together.  We talk about the rules, and then sometimes we break them.  It’s a lesson on patience, and a process.

I also allow them to complete a more personal project in the process.  This can be anything they want, and it will end up in their bedroom or they can gift it away.  It allows them to express their own sense of creativity beyond the project for the house.

I’m not just creating art, I’m creating memories.  I’m also encouraging their creativity, confidence, and sense of style.  I’m spending hours with my kids on a focused project, from concept to execution.  I love every second of it… even when the paint spills… and she wipes her messy hand on her brand new shirt.

I also help them break the bonds of perfection.  We embrace the oops… as Bob Ross would say, they are just happy little accidents.

Create with your kids, you will not regret it.

Chronicling 40: Day 16 of 365

JEglutenWe spend so much time talking about what we put into our bodies that we tend to forget about what we are putting on our bodies.

Have you ever wondered if those things you are allergic to are ingredients in some of your favorite skin care products.  I haven’t.

I’m supposed to minimize my exposure to gluten.  It’s not so much that I’m allergic to gluten, but I am mildly reactive to a protein that accompanies gluten.  If I avoid gluten, I avoid that protein.  It’s the simplest way for me to minimize my exposure.  As much as I have paid attention to what I was eating, I hadn’t put much thought into the products I used on my body.

One product line that I have been loyal to using for years, it turns out is gluten free.  I didn’t think we had skin care products on the market that contained gluten.  Which means all the months of being gluten free in my diet may have meant diddly squat because I was still exposing myself to gluten.  So, when I realized these products were gluten free… I was relieved.

All of this to say… when you have an allergy to food items, you may want to make sure that those are not ingredients in other things you are using in or on your body.

Make sure your vitamins and pills are gluten free.

Bath and body products should also be gluten free.

Flavorings (such as vanilla) that you use in baking, should be gluten free too.

Think beyond the plate.

Chronicling 40: Day 14 of 365

urchins

Finding my artistic voice, this is going to be a huge part of my 40s… I truly believe this.  I’ve always loved art.  I’ve always painted and drawn.  I love being creative, but I’ve always felt like I have never found my own artistic voice.

Earlier this year, I began learning a new technique.  Now, this technique is not new and is actually older than most contemporary artists of this style even realize.  None the less, it is new to me.   I have spent a few months just understanding the technique, the science behind what I am doing with these paints and chemicals.

When it comes to my creative processes, I’ve lived hard and fast by the guideline to learn the rules before I break them (or bend them, tweak them, etc).

A couple of days ago, it happened.  I found my artistic voice.   I worked on the above piece over a few days.  Now in the past, I may have spent as much time on a painting, or drawing.  I may have really liked it, but I would not have called it “fine art”.  It’s just a painting.  This was the first piece I’ve created in a long time where I feel like it is a real piece of art.  Also one that expresses my style.

Not only do I feel confident in finding my voice, but I also find so much joy and satisfaction in being creative at this level.  I’m thinking the 40’s are going to be very creative years.

Chronicling 40: Day 10 of 365

taste

I love food.  I love the presentation of food, the smell, the texture, and the taste.  I don’t mind getting my fingers dirty because of a great slab of ribs on my plate, nor do I mind using special tools to eat unconventional foods.  All of these senses coming together in an experience that is supposed to be satisfying and enjoyable.  In fact, I love food so much that I am willing to try just about anything once.

I have sat down to a plate of food that looked anything but appetizing and ended up having one of the best meals of my life.  In contrast, I’ve also been presented a plate of well crafted foods… artwork on a porcelain plate… and barely able to take a second bite.  There have been foods that smell amazing, but the flavor was lacking (my husband feels this way about coffee, it’s ok… I’ve forgiven him).

Here is the thing, because I have an openness toward trying different foods… cuts, cooking styles, seasonings, etc… I know GOOD food.  A few years ago, I was at a cookie exchange and two women were commenting on how they brought the exact same cookies and they tasted so differently.  They compared their recipes, nothing was amiss.  So, I sampled them both and replied:  “One of you used salted butter, the other used unsalted butter.  That is what made the difference.”  Sure enough, I was right.

I know that it is not just about the ingredients but also how we cook it, you can do everything right in the preparation but then flub it up in the execution.  It happens, to the best of us.  There have been a few meals over the last 20 years that I have tossed right into the trash, as we waited for the pizzas to arrive.

There are so many pieces of scripture that compare words to food, or eating food.

Matt 4:4 says that we can’t live on bread alone but the Word of God.  Jer 15:16 speaks of the joy of drinking in God’s Word.  1 Peter 2:2 compares the Word to milk.  Hebrews 5:12,15 compares it to solid food.  Psalm 113 calls it “honey in my mouth”.  Psalm 119:11 we read of storing up His word (akin to how we store up food).  We are told that it is good for us, nourishing to our bodies and souls, we are told to keep it on our lips, to consume it.

We are also warned to be careful about the words that come out of our own mouths.  How do you words taste when they come out of your mouth?  Are they bitter?  Does it sting or burn?  Are these words that destroy and divide, or tear down another?

Delivering bad news, it is so hard to do.  Yet, it amazes me how gentle we can be when pushed into that circumstance.  The words may be hard, but they are spoken with sweetness, compassion, and love.

We can also take harmful words and try to envelop them in words that sound sweet.  It may look good, it may sound good, but the words are bitter to the taste.  We know they are harmful words and we do everything we can to hide that fact.  This reveals so much about our intentions, of wanting to say something that isn’t beneficial but also trying to avoid ownership for those words.  When we encase them to make them appear harmless or sweet, good intentioned… we can then claim ignorance, blame misunderstanding, or even try to convince the recipient that it is their perception of our words that is off.

There are other times when our words sting, and we mean them to sting.  When we are purposefully lashing out at another person.  It’s that old cliche saying of “hurt people, hurt people”.  Whether it is spoken in revenge, anger, jealousy, etc… these words are sharp and there is no mixed message about it.

I’m sure we can all agree that these three points are obvious, we’ve all encountered them.  But recently, I was made aware of another example that wasn’t quite so obvious.

If we are called to use our words to build up, encourage, unify, strengthen, in love, for peace, etc… than any use of our words otherwise is counter to that call.

The enemy seeks to destroy, to discourage, to divide, to weaken, to hurt, to cause chaos, and confusion.  He is also a liar and manipulator, who can camouflage his plans to look and sound like a good idea or path.

Would God present you with an opportunity that would cause division among your friends?  Would He call you down a pathway that would become a stumbling block for your family?  Would He call us to a purpose that would intersect and cut off the work of another ministry or organization that He has ordained?

Sometimes these ideas and opportunities sound good, Kingdom worthy, and they may “feel right”.  These opportunities may not be bad, evil, or destructive.  In fact, they can even be a blessing to the community (God makes beauty out of ashes, and redeems all things to be used for His glory).

How much of this has to do with our own desires impacting our perception of truth and calling?  I remember reading something to the effect of “God will never give you another woman’s husband.”  This guy may be our knight in shining armor, and everything could feel so right… so much so that you could almost catch your self thanking God for bringing this man in to your life.  No matter how wonderful it feels, the truth is that God would never destroy one marriage or divide a family in order to bring you a husband.  That is a slap in the face to the very character of God displayed in the scriptures.

It would not be of God’s character to give you something that He intended for someone else.  We must be very careful not to credit God with orchestrating things in our lives that are actually of our own doing, our own desires, or that contradict who we know Him to be.

I believe one way to flesh these things out is to taste the words of your intentions.  Do they taste sweeter than honey or are they bitter.  Do they flow easy from your mouth, or do you struggle to speak?  Are your words working toward something or against someone? Are these words that are surrounded in peace or are they littered with chaos and confusion?  Are you confident in the calling or are you trying to convince yourself that you have been called?

If we are leaning in close to God, praying for clarity and discernment, then I believe the Holy Spirit is going to reveal the truth.  I believe that if you have to struggle and attempt to justify yourself, you will taste that those words are not good.  You will feel it in your heart, mind, soul, and even body that you are going in a direction that is not right. You will feel weighted and burdened in a very negative way, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is that you feel so bad.

But, when you are in alignment with God’s calling on your life, you will feel freedom to move forward at His pace.  There will be excitement and you won’t need to justify it to anyone (including yourself) because you will know deeply that this is the way you should go, and you will walk in it confidently.  You will not be weighted down with burden, but soaring!

So taste those words that come out of your mouth.  Before you make that phone call, or send that email, or even schedule that face to face meeting…

Say it out loud.  Don’t embellish it with fancy explanations and trying to justify it.  Speak it in plain simple facts.  Then ask yourself, how would I feel if I was the one receiving this message.  Would I feel hurt or betrayed?  Would I feel attacked or discouraged?  Do these words sound divisive or damaging?  Do these words taste bitter, are they unsavory?  Would I not want to receive this message?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then pull back and pray over this situation.  Ask for His peace and clarity over your steps.  Remember He is not a God of chaos, disorder, or confusion.  He does not change His Word or character to bend to the will of one person, He is consistent and constant.  He will not give you peace over a decision or direction that He does not intend.

If the words are bitter, if the mind is clouded in confusion… do not rush into anything but the arms of God.