Chronicling 40: Day 7 of 365

cats

I have a cat.  I say that because there are a lot of people who are unaware that we have a cat in our house.  In fact, we had a family member visiting not that long ago who asked: “When did you get a cat?”.

Our cat is seventeen years old, so yeah… we’ve had her for a bit.

The reason is that she was kind of anti-social.  She was fine with us, but if company came to visit… she was a ghost.  Slinking in and out of shadows, hiding in dark corners; you’d never know she was here.

In the last couple of years, however, she’s become the fixture in our home.  She visits people, even if they’ve only come into the house for the first time.  She has no cares about invading your space.  She despised our doxie, and now the two of them share space (we’re not at cuddling… yet).

I joked with my daughter that she had entered that time of the golden years when elderly people no longer care what people think.  Where they wear what they want, go where they want, say whatever comes to mind, and couldn’t care less of how others receive them.  Our cat has decided to live her best life in her golden years, and her playfulness and social visits are evidence of that truth.

We were discussing this a few nights ago, and I said… I hope that when I am the equivalent to her age as a human that I feel the same way.  Where I will wear whatever I want, do whatever I want, say what I really think, and have confidence in who I am.  Let’s be honest, no matter how far we get from high school days, there is still an element of us that is concerned with how others perceive us.  Our professional image, our ministry work, our family, etc area all impacted by how others view us.  We’ve been trained to put our best foot forward, at all times.

John the Baptist didn’t care what others thought of him.  Certainly there were those who thought he was a little off, gone mad, a little eccentric, etc.  But those who followed him had no doubt that he was a man of God.

Maybe I won’t wait until I am in my 70’s or 80’s to embrace all the facets of my personality, which were crafted in my mother’s womb by God who knew my name before it was ever uttered by my parents.

Chronicling 40: Day 6 of 365

summer

In roughly two weeks my kids go back to school.  Where did this summer go?  I feel like we just started summer break.  It seemed like we had so much time, and now we are running out.

Parents of youngsters, I know that quite a few of you are counting down the days until your kids are back in school.  Summer squabbles are exhausting.  Proclamations of boredom may be grating your last nerve.  And all of the eating, you are tired of spending so much time prepping snacks or telling your kids to stay out of the pantry.

As a mother who knows what that is like, let me give you some hope… one day this too will pass.  This is not the first summer where I am asking for a summer buffer… a little more time.  More time to rest.  More time to spend with the kids.  More time to do things. More time to connect.

Before you know it, you have a kid starting college and another entering high school.  The baby?  She’s finishing up her last year of elementary school.   Your kids are turning into adults before your eyes.

When you feel the summer struggles creeping in… try to embrace the days you have left.  There are only so many summers before adulthood.

As I grow older, so do my kids, and perhaps hitting 40 makes me a bit more aware of how old they are… how little time I have left in these years… and a desire to make the most of it.

Chronicling 40: Day 4 of 365

neighborhood.png

One of the things I have come to realize recently is how disconnected I am from my own community.  What I mean by that is my specific neighborhood and surrounding areas.  When we moved to our current city, we knew absolutely no one.  We had been given a few church recommendations, that just didn’t work for our family.  Through a chance encounter at a park, I met a woman who invited me to a local MOPS group.

We had only been living in the area a matter of months, when I found out I was going to have another baby.  Since pregnancies are not easy on me, I was home a lot.  Thus, I didn’t really connect to anyone in my immediate community.  By the time I met this mom, I had a brand new baby and was desperate to get out of the house and make new friends.  A MOPS group being hosted in a church would mean that I could build up a group of moms who shared the same values as I did.  I envisioned our children being friends, our husbands too.

The hitch in this plan is that the church was actually in a neighboring county, albeit close in proximity.  I didn’t think this would be a big deal.  Additionally, most of the moms in this group were just starting their families.  I entered in with our last child.  This created a gap in the ages of our children, to an extent.  Please understand these were just hitches in the plan, not any negativity about the group at all.  These are wonderful women, many I am still in touch with and see occasionally.

The problem came in as our lives began to change.  It was convenient to drive to the next county when none of us had kids in school or to find a park in the middle to meet at for lunch.  Once the kids began attending school, and time became more strained… the travel time was a little less convenient.  The kids were not as close as they once were, as my kids were attending school in a different county.  Once I was graduated out of MOPS, often the only time they would see each other was during Sunday services.  There was just a very natural parting.  It happens.  That is ok.

In the last year, I started to notice things.  I noticed how close the kids were who were in the same schools, the families were that lived in the same county.  We didn’t have that same closeness.  We lived just far enough away to make it difficult to have that same connection.  I realized, however, that I had done a really poor job of connecting into my local community once I was not part of the MOPS group.  Perhaps I thought that the weekly connection in the church would be enough to sustain?  Or, perhaps having three kids so apart in age, it was just difficult connecting into anyone school community because our time is so divided.  (We have had three kids in three schools for quite some time now).

I began to feel almost burdened by our lack of connection to our community.  This grew each month as my eyes opened wider.  I never run into anyone I know at the grocery store.  I don’t have a neighborhood friend that I can go walking with.  Swinging by for coffee takes effort and planning.  Going to meet up with others means that I also have to factor in my travel time, which usually means I must arrive late or leave early.  This was an environment I created for myself, and didn’t even realize it.

I’m not a total hermit in my own neighborhood.  I know some people by name, I can tell you who has lived here the longest, we wave at each other, have mailbox conversations, etc.   Still I long for a different kind of relationship with the people on my street.

Case in point… found out that a family who lives on my street and I were going to the same church.  Only found this out in the last month.  How crazy is that?

Ultimately all of this has had an effect on us as a family, and we have been trying to decide exactly what to do about this.  It’s been weighing on us for some time.  How do we connect locally?  How do we give our kids a change to build real friendships?  What can we change?

The first answer to this question, was probably the hardest to make… and one we have been struggling with for some time.  This was the decision to leave our church of eleven years, really the only one we have attended since moving here.  Our 3 children were baptized in this church.  We have invested so much service into this church.  We have made so many great connections, and have grown in this church.  To leave is an incredibly difficult decision, and yet one shrouded in such peace.

Right decisions are not always easy decisions.  Peace doesn’t always mean easy decisions, either.  It is peace in spite the sadness that affirms this is the right move for our family.

My husband and I were both experiencing this call to move from our church, yet we had not shared it with one another.  It was a thought rolling through our minds, but I suppose we were both uncertain of how the other would receive the idea.  Finally one night my husband started sharing with me, and I realized that we were of one mind.  I was feeling the same way, having the same thoughts, feeling the same call.

We spent several days talking over these feelings, just between the two of us.  This is a big decision for a couple to make, but even more so when there are kids involved.  How would they feel?  Then one day, coming home from school, we passed by a local church.  One of my children asked if we could visit that church.  That began the conversation with our kids about possibly changing church, and a surprise for us at how open they were to the idea.

I remember a few years back speaking to my Pastor’s wife about moving and how it impacts children.  She told me then that God has always taken care of her kids when they have moved.  I believe that to be true, and the Lord had already softened our kids hearts.  He was preparing us for the time the call to move would come, and I fully believe that is why everything unfolded the way it did.  When we were all ready, when the timing was right, He prompted the conversations to begin.

I am very excited about what is to come, and how we will begin to plug into our immediate community.  I’ve been taking the time to learn about my community demographics, connecting with ministries serving our community, learning about our local churches, and even reading up on how others have done the same thing.

If you have done anything to intentionally connect to your local community… I’d love to hear about it!  Comment with your ideas, suggestions, and experiences.

I’ve been looking at the “Teal Table Project” as one idea too.  If you have done this, I’d love to hear about how you got the ball rolling and how it has worked out for you.

This is my neighborhood.  These are the people of my neighborhood. It’s time we are apart of this neighborhood.

My 40th: Day 3 of 365

hands

My friend Jenny took this picture just a few days ago, when she posted it to Facebook, she added the scripture.   I could say so much about what this picture means to me, and how it has been a reflection of the last year.

Two years ago, the Lord brought these three hands together in only such as way as He can.  I don’t live in the same city as these ladies, not even in the same county, or even the neighboring county.  I didn’t share any mutual friends with them (at the time).  But through a ministry connection, this friendship was born.

We have served alongside in ministry together, as Jenny and Aimee have both spoken at Women’s Ministry Council meetings.  We even jumped into the fray, and tacked a big topic… Diversity and Unity in the church.  We were cautious, nervous, maybe even a little afraid.  But the burden to push forward could not be pushed away.  We know that the Lord isn’t done with us in that capacity either, He is working things out and paving a way for a larger conversation.

Outside of the diversity our skin color and life experiences bring to the table, there is a commitment to God that intertwines our hearts together.  There is also something there which isn’t as easy to see… honesty.  You can’t have a conversation about race in the church, race in the community, etc without baring your souls to one another.  Being open about what you didn’t understand, having your heart broken over the experiences that your friends have lived through.  But, that isn’t the only honesty between us.

We have hard conversations.  We speak truth to each other.  We have conversations that are tense.  However, we choose to push through the awkwardness because our friendship and commitment to serving together is so much more important.  Not even two weeks before this picture was taken, Jenny and I had a really hard conversation.  Only speaking for myself, I walked away from that conversation a bit wounded and confused.  But, Jenny knew this.  Instead of burying my feelings, in the course of the conversation I told her “this hurts a little”.

In the days after, I needed to get my head straight.  Who is Jenny?  She is my friend, not my enemy.  Why was I feeling hurt?  Did I even need to be hurt?  The more I thought about these questions and more, I could only land on what I know of Jenny.   What I know of her is that she is a woman who pursues Christ, and she is responsible for the calling the Lord put on her life.  I know that she is wise, trustworthy, and kind.  I know that she is honest, direct, and she has good intentions.  She is a Kingdom server, loyal, and just like the rest of us she is not perfect.

The more I pondered about the Jenny I knew, my heart felt less of a sting.  I recognized that I really had no reason to feel hurt.

There are three things that I have taken away from this, that I am holding onto as I venture in the 40s.

  1.  It is far better to recognize the hurt in the moment, than to stuff it and let it stew.  It is not only healthier for me, but it is good for the other person to know as well.  Should there be actual fault, a person can not apologize for something they are unaware of.  If there is no fault, it allows the person to know that you are in a tender place and may need some space to heal.
  2. I need to surround myself with people whom I can be this honest with.  I knew I could be honest with Jenny.  Reflecting on my past, I can think of people who were in my inner circle and I couldn’t be that honest with.  This tells me that I either didn’t really know them in the first place, or that I knew and disregarded the fact that they were not people I could be honest with for the sake of having a friend.  Usually these are the people who will be direct and honest with you about your sins, but Lord help us all if anyone were to actually call them out.
  3. I need to evaluate who is in my circle, it may be time to prune… create boundaries. I want the friendships that I have, moving forward, to be built on good foundation.  It is quality over quantity.  Reciprocal relationships where we are each a blessing to each other, iron sharpening iron.  I want to walk away from phone calls, lunch dates, ministry work, etc feeling joy, peace, and even a belly hurt from laughter.  I can no longer afford to walk away and feel emotionally exhausted, beat up, pressed down, and overwhelmed.

There is a woman that I have been friends with for a very long time, and I thought it was a healthy friendship.  Now, I am not quite so sure.  I never set boundaries, nor stood up for myself in our friendship.  She has a very strong personality and frankly, I am intimidated by her at times.  I thought I could overlook that strong personality, especially since I have one myself.  However, in the last few days I have realized that while I enjoy most of our time together, it’s not always pleasant.

I’m going to take a heavy dose of blame here because I didn’t handle things well from the start.  I didn’t set boundaries, and the friendship became overwhelming.  Instead of sitting her down and being honest, I just imposed distance.  In the moments where she was overstepping her bounds, I didn’t speak up and tell her that she needed to back down.  Many years later, that resulted in a boundary-less friendship.

This came to a head recently, and when I recount our last interaction and how I felt when I left, I wondered if this friendship was really a blessing?  Not only was I asking if she was the the type of friend I needed… but also the reverse.  Am I the right friend for her?  Am I a blessing to her?  Is this a friendship that is salvageable?  Can we put in boundaries, or is it too late?

What to do with this revelation?

Before I do anything, I must take this to the throne.  As humans we are just fallible.  It is amazing what we can justify to keep in our lives, or to let go.  We allow the opinions of others to influence us.  We can have to soft of a heart, or a deep desire to be liked.  We can fear hurting even those who hurt us.

What does God’s Word say about what our relationships should look like?  What kind of character should we be looking for in those we pull into our inner circle?  Who should we avoid?

This doesn’t mean we isolate ourselves from the world at large, we can’t fulfill The Great Commission doing that.  I’m talking specifically about that inner circle, the closest friends, those we want to rely on for wise counsel and solid truth.  The ones we are going to give permission to speak into our lives.

I am going to trust the One who orders my steps.

My 40th: Day 2 of 365

spaday

As I sat in the spa yesterday, I lingered in my memories of days when taking care of my skin was part of my routine not a special occasion.  Understand that we didn’t always have the money for a spa day.  We still are not at a place where I could splurge on this type of a day on a regular basis.  But, somewhere in the hustle and bustle of life I dropped the ball.

Anyone with kids can understand that some days we are just grateful to take a shower, uninterrupted.  Even the idea of having an at home spa day seems out of reach when you have realized that you actually don’t recall when was the last time you shaved your legs.  I’ve noticed that in these seasons there are the women who have the time, but not the money.  Or, they have the money but not the time.  But none the less self care becomes  secondary (or tertiary) to everything else you “need to do”.

I made a decision yesterday that for my 40th year, I was going to schedule a mani-pedi session once a month.  A little something to bring me joy.  Today, I realized that was just not going to be enough.  I am going to carve out some at home spa time at least once a week.  This is going on my calendar.  This is going to be put into the meal planning.  One day, per week, where I am going to indulge myself in rest, I’m going to de-stress, I am going to find peace.

I may even invite some ladies to join me.

Having Hashimotos means that my skin is DRY.  I do mean DRY.  Not everyone gets this as a symptom, but I do.  The woman who did my pedicure yesterday could hardly believe that just a few weeks ago, I actually had a foot peel to remove dead skin or that I had used an exfoliant and pumice just the night before. My hands were beat up and rough, because of dry skin and brittle nails (my thyroid strikes again).

As I soaked in the mineraled waters, I was marveling at how soft my skin felt.  How much I wanted to bottle it up and bring it home.  If I could, I’d set up an above ground pool on the patio and make a mineral spring for myself.  I’m not sure these pools pumps are equipped to deal with this kind of water.  None the less, I wanted to bring it home and soak every day.

As my first decree to myself, meandering into forty, I’ve decided that this is going to be an area I am going to restore.  I’m going to take care of the skin that I am in.  I’m going to make the effort.

In a few weeks, once I have worked out the plan, I’ll post it here.  We can all have a great spa at home experience.

Gena Version 4.0

40bday1

Today was my birthday.

It was probably one of the best birthdays I have had in a very long time, maybe ever.  Which is awesome considering it was my 40th.

By total coincidence some of my girl friends were planning a spa day, and the date we chose happened to be my birthday.  We all met up at the spa.  My friend Ester walked in with a balloon, that I was then instructed to carry with me throughout the entire day.  Fortunately, most of the ladies didn’t realize it was my 40th … otherwise, I suspect things would have been a bit more out of hand.

After our spa services and lounging in the most amazing mineral pools, we had lunch.  Surprise two was a birthday cake.

Summer birthdays are hard to celebrate, everyone is coming and going.  So it was just nice to to be surrounded by friends, relaxing, and having a good time.  Balloon and cake, that was just bonus.

Then came the rain and we move to the lounge area, hoping it would pass. I was watching the ladies chat and become a bit reflective.  So many people hype up 40, but I was sitting there… relaxed… and happy.   Truly happy.

The storm wasn’t going to break up, so we decided to call it a day.  Came home, napped, my husband took care of dinner.  It was just the most stress free, relaxing day.

As I think back on it, I realized… I want more of this.  More contentment.  Less stress.  More joy.  Less frustration.  More quality time with friends.  Less spreading myself thin.  More health.  Less struggle.

Ultimately this led to today’s post.  I’ve decided to chronicle my 40th year.  I’m going to post daily, sometimes they may be quips and others a bit longer.  But I want to document what 40 brings.

I thought about Moses.  For the first 40 years, he had it pretty easy.  In a study I found online, from Peninsula Bible Church…

“He was then the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, a totally active person in his own right. According to the Scriptures, he was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was a man of power in both words and deeds. According to “Antiquities of the Jews” by Josephus, he was also a general with a good track record, and had once saved Egypt from the Ethiopians. So he knew he was good. He had always been at the top of the heap, always been adequate for every situation and had proven his ability to command, to lead, to combat, and had already once been a deliverer.”

Do you relate?  I do.  I’ve been a lifelong student, always active, involved in various things.   I have always been in some sort of leadership role or team, as far back as I can remember.  I’ve never felt like I couldn’t do the job before me, proven myself capable and dependable.

At 40 years old, Moses received his first calling from God.

For the last few years, I have felt that the Lord was preparing me for something.  Sometimes the calling seem clear, then there would be fuzzy moments where I wasn’t so certain.  I must confess, I am one of those who likes to see the finish line.  I don’t mind how long it takes to get there… as long as I know what it is I am running to.

I made the decision that I was going to be ok without knowing, and just walk each day in whatever path is being laid before me.  I was going to be ok with not knowing His ultimate destination for my life, my calling.

That was, isn’t, easy.

In April, things began to suddenly take on some momentum.  Big changes, lots of them, were happening all at ones.  Faced with decisions, opportunities, etc.  I sit here on my 40th and I see the call clearer than ever before.

But that doesn’t mean everything falls into place this year.  Moses didn’t walk out of Egypt and encounter the burning bush the same day, week, or year.  He still had another 40 years of moving into the call.

What I hope you take away from this, is that 40 doesn’t need to be something we lament.  In fact, for many of us… it’s just the beginning.

And if you have already passed 40…  good news, God still isn’t finished with you either.  Just trust, yield, and hold on.

Facing Rejection

rejection

Rejection stings.  No one likes to be rejected.  In the age of social media the pain of rejection knows no bounds.  I was reading a post on a popular Christian magazine’s Facebook page this morning.  We would love to think that only someone who agrees with the magazine would be posting comments on their page, that was hardly the truth.  Most of the comments were negative, pot stirrers, people who were running in with a quick cut to the jugular and then disappearing into internet obscurity.

Before social media, there were definitely people who were like this.  Mean girls who would reject your offer of friendship and then talk about you behind your back.  Today, the negative comments are thrown right in your face. You know every word they say about you.

Before social media,  you could plan a party and excitement would roll in as you received the phone calls of those who were RSVPing that they would be in attendance.  Now, you not only see the responses of those who have chosen not to attend but also what they chose to do with their time instead.  You feel rejected when a person would rather spend time at the beach than with you on your birthday.  You feel rejected when you see photos of your group of friends all having lunch together, and you were not invited.

Social media has even given rejection no accountability at all.  You can unfriend someone without having to tell them why the friendship is over.  A person can kick you out of a facebook group, without ever having to tell you what you did wrong.  You can be banned.  BANNED.  A term once applied to people who were bad news and thus banned from a certain store, restaurant, or event.  Now, any regular person can be banned from a group… for no reason at all, for no reason ever given.

And, the worst part about it…. you know that this has happened.  When you attempt to view their social media account.  Unfriended.  When you can’t even find the social media account. Banned.  You are left with unanswered questions… what did I do wrong?  I thought was being helpful?  Did someone misunderstand me?  Why didn’t they like me? 

It is easy to wallow in those questions, wondering why you have been rejected.  It some instances it can hurt as badly as someone rejecting you to your face, in other instances it may hurt worse because you don’t even know why and there is nothing you can do about it.

I learned a long time ago to stop running after those who can’t make time for you, and to focus on those who will.  We can too easily get wrapped up in being accepted by a particular person, group of friends, or even social media account… that we can forget about those who have always been by our side, supporting us, who have pursued us.

A new friend reminded me one day when I was lamenting over a rejections… “Gena, those are just not your people.”

So true.  Maybe it is the wisdom of age catching up with me, but I realize that I don’t have enough time or energy for those who are “not my people”.  And, I am learning to better recognize who truly are my people.  Who supports me.  Who can I trust.  Who allows me to be me vs. changing me to what they want me to be?  Who can allow me to grieve how I need to grieve?  Who treats me like an adult, a person, and not a project?  Who trusts that I am capable person vs. talking down to me like a child?

When you begin to set boundaries, identify who you want to bring into your circle… rejection begins to sting less.  I think, in part, because you stop inviting the pests into your sanctuary in the first place… and you are quick to get rid of the ones that slip by.