Hey guys, good news! I’ve met the Joneses and they told me it was never a race in the first place and to stop following them. Seriously, they live a few doors down, are all about their family and don’t seem to be looking around for ways to be better than the rest of us.
I think trying to keep up with the Joneses happens when we do that ugly thing called comparing. It can start out innocently enough just noticing someone’s fancy house, new car, clothes, accessories, hair, body, career, vacation, social media posts…you name it. But sometimes noticing turns into wanting or jealousy instead of an observation.
I see it happening around me with kids in elementary school all the way to adults who should know better. There’s this pressure to get the “thing” because the “thing” brings with it all life’s happiness and contentment.
Insert screeching record player noise here.
THE “THING” HAS NO MAGICAL POWERS TO CHANGE ANYTHING, YOU GUYS.
And therein lies the rub. Because it brings only a temporary feeling of having arrived, yet becomes a reminder that we still fell short. Even though, even though.
So let’s stop the self-sabotage and try self-acceptance and turn the focus inward, to what really matters. Now make a list of what really matters to you. Not to stress you out, but this is a test. How long is your list?
It should be super short. Besides humans, there shouldn’t be anything else on your list that you can physically touch…because it doesn’t MATTER.
People matter, relationships matter, believing in something bigger than yourself matters. Kindness and love matters and the way we treat people matters.
The Joneses matter. Their stuff does not. So back to the Joneses…the ones on my street. Like I said, they are all about their family. Just imagine if we tried to keep up with them in that regard?
I volunteered with the 5th and 6th graders at church recently and they were in the middle of a series on change, and the day’s topic: That they can change the world.
We watched a video about an amazing young girl, Katie, who knew that by herself she couldn’t end hunger, but that she could make a difference. Katie’s Krops was born out of one 40-lb cabbage, and has grown to 75 youth-run gardens in 27 states. It was a great example for the kids to see that big changes start small and that often times, people don’t even realize they have made a difference until after they already did!
Next, we broke out into small groups and I was charged with asking the kids about what they could do to change the world, as well as changes they have faced in their life. We went around the circle and I got answers like volunteering at soup kitchens, donating food and clothes and helping elderly neighbors.
When asked to think of ways change has affected them, many of the kids talked about how starting a new grade in the fall was a big change, joining new sports teams or learning how to get around with a broken leg. One sweet, young 5th grader raised her hand bravely and shared with the group that her father had died and how she and her mom had to move in with her aunt because they were left without money to make ends meet.
The group was silent, but sweet girl had no post-sharing discomfort. This was her story. She owned it. My tears threatened to well and spill. I haven’t worked that hard to hold it together in a long time. I was moved mostly because she was strong. Because of her situation, or maybe in spite of it, girlfriend knows she can do hard things. I know every other child put themselves in her shoes for that one fleeting moment. And without setting out to, by being a survivor, she showed the other kids that they were capable of doing hard things, too.
Class was then dismissed a little differently than normal because we ran over on time, and my friend said to me, “Oh! We all forgot to pray.”
Miss Girl is killing me. Again, tears that wanted to come were not so politely told to get the bleep away.
I assured dear girl that even though the others had left, we could still pray. She brought a friend with her that day, and encouraged the friend to say the prayer, but her friend was too shy. I was in no shape to pray because of tears, so like the coward I am, I said, “You can do it,” and bowed my head before she could say no. So my brave, sweet friend, her friend and I, huddled together, bowed our heads, and she prayed. She prayed for other people. She prayed that what we learned in class would help us in our lives to change the world. She was thankful for being at church. She prayed better than I ever could even on my best day. It was pure and it was perfect. I clapped when it was over and gave the girls a high five as they got up to leave because a ginormous lump was lodged in my throat and I couldn’t speak to save my life.
But I could reflect like a champ. How would I change the world? By listening to the cutest girl with the deepest brown eyes I’ve ever seen, tell her sad truths to her 10-year old peers, and hold her hands while we prayed together. I hope it made a difference in her life for that short moment; I sure know it made a difference in mine.
Read about Katie’s Krops here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKg18FLA9IE
God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
I imagine the light was gradual, like a dimmer switch, slowly going from black, to gray, to light, to piercing brightness.
I wonder what prompted God to flip the switch? Had he been toying with the idea for a while or was it spontaneous? How long did He exist in the dark, and why?
Questions. I have questions…
But I am thankful for light. I’m thankful for lights in my house that when illuminated, vanish darkness. Thankful for people who light my way, lighten my mood or lighten my load. And thankful for a man from the Bible I’m learning about named Jesus, who is called the light of the world.
So when I read God’s words, “Let there be light,” I can’t help but think about the kind of lightness I have experienced through my short faith journey so far. Peace and strength that have calmed and anchored me when I have felt caught up in the hurricane of my problems. If this is available to me now, someone who’s just getting started, I can’t imagine the amazing things that await me as I grow and learn more.
It also makes me think about the kind of light I can be to others. What I need to remember is that I can shine my light on others in simple ways every day.
Kindness = light, compassion = light,
and those don’t cost me anything, so why am I not constantly giving them away? It’s a message I give my children frequently and I should remember to take my own (darn good) advice… “You can shine your light, or cast shadows, the choice is yours.”
Shine. I choose to shine.
Ed Sheeran is so right. I was listening to his song, Thinking out Loud, on the radio the other day and it hit me. It hit me hard.
One, how in the world does this young guy, with twenty-four years under his belt, have all the answers, when I’ve been walking around in circles most of my forty-something years, trying to get to the bottom of it?
And two, I wish Ed Sheeran would have been around in the 80’s when I was so impressionable, and hit me over the head with his smarty-pants lyrics. Seriously, where did Jessie’s girl, Jack or Diane, eyes of tigers or angels who were centerfolds ever get me? Nowhere good, I tell ya. Nowhere good.
Here’s the lyric that struck me…
“I’m thinking out loud, that maybe we found love right where we are.”
He wasn’t saying “Hey baby, wasn’t it amazing how when we fell in love, everything was perfect? No, he was so happy that he didn’t have to go to great lengths or change himself or his situation. He and his gal found love in their everyday lives. I’m assuming a pop star’s life might be a little more glam than mine, but most of the time I bet it isn’t.
Back to me…
To be totally honest, I’ve been sort of waiting around for my life to begin. Thinking something magical will happen when I have more money or am more sophisticated. Like I will all of a sudden be, well…a better version of myself. You’ve seen those people too, right? The ones that look like they have it all together…they just know things. And I bet they never have to dig through a messy purse for car keys. For absurdly long periods of time.
But as of late, I’ve been embracing the here and now, and it’s such an amazing lesson that I feel the need to
shout it out. So here goes…
Find love, acceptance, peace…or whatever you might be waiting for, right here, right now! Because guess what? It’s there for the taking, even if you still have 20 pounds to lose or your house looks like an episode of Hoarders.
Catching up with an old friend recently, I asked how things were going in her marriage, knowing that she hadn’t been in a good place for a while. “You know, they are good,” she said, and I could hear peacefulness in her voice. She shared with me that she made a conscious choice to be happy, even in the midst of the chaos of the valley she and her spouse were mucking through. It dawned on her that even though her situation wasn’t the way she wanted it to be, she had to figure out a way to work within the confines of it.
So she found love right where she was.
Marriage is like a roller coaster ride, my mother once told me. Expect peaks and expect valleys. After almost twenty years of marriage, here’s what I will share with my own children about the roller coaster.
Peaks seem to be the obvious destination, but they are fleeting. It’s all about the journey, people.
Peaks are awesome—no doubt. They are triumphant times. The valleys though, will show you what your relationship is made of. The valleys give you the opportunity to have your spouse’s back when he/she needs you most. Foundations of trust are laid in the valleys, which can lead to deeper connections at the peaks…really, deeper connections at every turn.
And when the roller coaster comes out of the dip and starts on the rise…those are exceptional times. Times of dreaming, anticipation, potential, and times when you know, that at least for the moment, your stuff is together and you and your partner are both looking in the same direction.
But the most important part to remember about the roller coaster is this: Don’t get too comfortable with the ride, because it will change. Just when you’ve figured out to lean left on the second curve, the track will shift and a new course will be laid out with new scary parts, new valleys, new rises and new peaks. It’s your coaster though, so embrace it and be a student to what it has to teach you.
What it’s taught me, with a little help from Ed Sheeran, is that I can probably wait my whole life for the perfect time to do this, that or the other. Or, instead of waiting, I can participate even though my circumstances aren’t perfect. For instance, I’m still lovable even though I have age spots and wrinkles taking up permanent residence on my face, even though my book isn’t on a best seller list, and even though I’m such a bad housekeeper that mold is growing on my shower curtain. Now you do it. I’m still lovable even though fill in the blank here with the lies you tell yourself. Friends, life is short. Learn from my mistakes and start really living your life. Right. Where. You. Are.
Now if you’ll excuse me, Ed’s got a new song out about love and memories in photographs that I need to go dissect, because I’m certain it will teach me something about myself I didn’t already know.
In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth.
What a great opening line of a book. I can hear the richness of Morgan Freeman’s or James Earl Jones’ voice, saying the words, adding layers of depth the way that they do.
It’s a simple sentence, yet it’s hard for me to grasp all that it encompasses. Seriously, this includes EVERYTHING. Dinos to no-see ‘ums. Glaciers to grains of sand. Outer space to atoms. The vision it took to create and piece it together like a puzzle is mind-boggling. Were there things He made and then reconsidered? Was the world as we know it His first draft? There were no bar napkins back then on which to sketch and plan it out. My forgetful pea brain has a hard time comprehending it all.
As I’m learning about God, thinking about what “In the beginning…” means, has a profound effect on me. Some days I doubt and question, and other days simply glimpsing the beautifully intricate pattern on a leaf or the workings of the human body can settle me into a place of certainty that there must be a God. Brilliant designs and a masterful plan... I mean, can you imagine thinking through every last detail of every last thing?
It sounds reasonable to me that a big bang, or two things colliding could form a planet. But start adding people who think and love and reproduce, animals (who do the same!), and vegetation of almost infinite variety and stars and the tides and seasons? It’s then that something inside of me just knows: How could all this life and beauty be accidental? It’s simply too miraculous for it to be anything else. And it’s okay for me not to understand it, to simply appreciate it and believe there’s something out there that’s bigger than me.
Clearly it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There’s ugliness galore. But even beauty and goodness can be born out of pain and suffering, and that, I’m quite certain, was no accident.
I struggled for years with no direction. I actually said the words, “I need to find myself before I can…” basically announcing to the world that nothing should be expected of me until I what…mapped out my future? Had a moment of enlightenment? I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I was certain that something would happen to spur an a-ha moment or a magical transformation, turning me into who I was supposed to be.
So I waited.
‘She’s so lucky,’ I would think when I’d see my peers pursuing their passions or experiencing success in their fields. A tiny part of me that I’m not proud of felt like someone else’s success would limit mine. Like there’s a success pie we are all feeding from and I wasn’t going to get my fair share. Of pie. I love pie.
Two things — both involving me being wrong— One, those women weren’t lucky. They worked hard, sacrificed, and were brave in putting themselves out there in the name of following their dreams. Luck simply wasn’t a factor. Two…there is no pie! It’s a lie we tell our scared selves so that we can stay in a safe place. There’s enough to go around, and then some.
The reality of it is that operating from a place of scarcity, begets more scarcity. Abundance is where we should all be living — a place where the success of others buoys our spirits, psyches and happiness. Read Glennon Melton’s piece on abundance if you have a chance, it shifted my thinking and for that I am ever so grateful.
You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket, just like you can’t live your life the way you were meant to, without showing up. Showing up just means taking stock of what you have, right here, right now, and doing something with it. Not waiting for the ‘perfect’ time, or for the stars to align, but immediately. Right now.
Small, positive steps have a cumulative effect. Big, impressive things don’t just materialize from nothing. Intentionality, patience and small steps lead to big things over time. But there is no payoff for things you intend to do. Only the things you DO.
Teddy knew what he was talking about…
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
…as does this life coach…
Don’t wait for something big to occur. Start where you are, with what you have, and that will always lead you into something greater.
-Mary Manin Morrissey
…and this deep thinker must have known I would be needing lots of direction…
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
-George Bernard Shaw
I picture George gently saying this to me while pulling me off my arse and escorting me to my imaginary workbench to see what tools I have available to work with today.
All so simple, right? Right! But folks, don’t mistake simple for easy.
Simple = Straightforward
Easy = Effortless
Most things worth pursuing aren’t effortless, but it sure is nice when they are straightforward! Lucky for us, this is one of those things.
Figure out what YOUR starting point is. Own it. It’s not anyone else’s, so stop comparing. How many times have we heard the phrase ‘humble beginnings’ and found it inspirational or given props, mental or otherwise, to whomever it was that started humbly?
Because they put in the effort, and we all know that after starting, that’s the hardest part.
I’m still in the humble part of my beginnings, which started with a pen and a pad of paper (yes, I’m old school). Many days I hold my breath because it’s scary to put myself out there, attempt grace in the face of rejection, or have some days feel like the first day all over again. Every once in a while though, there’s a little, tiny win, and it’s exciting enough to cover the other days that aren’t.
So, what do you have at your fingertips right now? Okay, now start.
Right. Where. You. Are.
And by all means, let me know how it goes!
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6.21
What you think about becomes what is important. This is worth repeating: What you think about becomes what is important.
So, what do you think about?
Do you find yourself placing importance on, or worrying about what others think? If you are human, you have done this. But when we look to others for approval or validation we lose track of who we are.
Do you place importance on things? Having the right things, or the things that everyone else has?
What if today, you decided to change your focus?
Today you decided to be confident in yourself and BE YOU, unapologetically. Start marching to the beat of your own drummer, because you, my friend, you are enough.
Where can you find the confidence to stand out in the crowd after all this time taking comfort in it? The solution is simple, but it’s not necessarily easy.
Simply change your thoughts, and you will change your world. Like I said earlier…what you think about becomes important — so start thinking about better things and you will be better.
Have you tried thinking about Jesus? He’s the perfect guy to aspire to be like. If you aren’t ready for that yet, just think about kindness and acceptance, and think about all the sames you share with every other human being on the planet.
Now—go accept and love some of those people. Branch out a little. Show some love to the cashier at the grocery store that seems starved for conversation, or the bus driver or someone you know, but don’t really know. Once you start looking, it will become obvious who needs you, at your best.
On this first day of 2015, take a moment and think about Matthew 6.21…
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Decide what you choose to treasure and where you choose to put your thoughts this year. Don’t be shy, make it known—comment below, tweet it, or share it here… #MyTreasureIn2015.
Happy, Happy New Year everyone!
taking care of myself, praising God, loving my people
Why is it that I need reminders for the important things in life, but not for the mundane?
For example, I would never forget to go to tennis practice. Ever. I know Modern Family is on Wednesday nights, my dermatologist appointments are made a year in advance, and my radar is always in tune with how full or empty the bottle of my precious Garlic Expressions salad dressing is.
I oftentimes need to be hit over the head with reminders to be thankful, to pray, or to slow things down and be in the moment with my family. Hello eye contact with the people I live with. I’ve even been thankful for a reminder not to raise my voice at my children. Really?? I need a reminder not to yell at the people I love most in the world?
Yes. Yes I do. And I need reminders about the other stuff too. Daily, please.
But lucky me, I have some amazing women in my life who help me stay on track. This is a creative group that seeks depth in their friendships and their lives. These are the women you want to stand next to at a party, because the weather will never come up, and you won’t talk about people — you will talk about ideas, feelings and things. The good stuff.
The other day I realized I am amassing a treasured collection that all happen to have come from these women. These gifts were laid out in close proximity to one another, and it struck me that they had an unintentional theme — they are all reminders!
Rose quartz—a symbol of love, was given to me to carry in my pocket, or to put somewhere special to promote love. My friend suggested I put it in my bedroom, which gave me visions of a princess and the pea scenario, where my husband and I are sleeping atop a mountain of rose quartz nuggets…hey, if one is good, 8,000 should be better, right? The thing is, I know how to love and where to love and when to love, but I need the reminder to give my love away. I love her reminder to love.
A small, silver tray that tells me, “Anything is Possible”, came from a friend who knows me well and knows I get too far in my own head sometimes, and fret over mountains that are molehills. A friend who has walked with me in valleys and who I know is pulling for me to take up residence on a peak. I love the tray for the message written on it, and also for the sentiment that is left unsaid. I know I can do things. Hard things. But sometimes I need the reminder. And also, every time I read it, the tune from the Lego movie, ‘Everything is Awesome’, pops into my head, and it makes me happy.
Another reminder is a book called Believe. This gem is filled with short quotes of inspiration — the ones that give me butterflies and make me feel strong. Not one word in that book is rocket science or some new way of thinking. It’s just full of simple reminders to live. Really live. We all know we only have one shot at this thing called life, but yeah, we need the reminder! If you don’t need this reminder, you are probably off finding a cure for cancer or rescuing orphans in Africa. Please don’t stop what you are doing, because you are the people who are quoted in books like Believe, and we need you to keep being amazing and inspiring.
The word THANKFUL is stamped on a simple bracelet that I recently received. And no, it’s not some company capitalizing on forgetful people, such as myself. It’s a company called MudLOVE and they make these sweet bracelets (and other cool stuff) to help people get clean drinking water. When I see THANKFUL staring up at me from my wrist, I can’t help but think about those people enjoying their clean water, and I have no choice but to be thankful for mine, too. Not to mention, it’s a very direct reminder for me to be thankful in general. Subtlety is lost on me; I need to be whacked over the head with this stuff. I mean, I say the words ‘thank you’ all day long…but am I thank-FULL? Yes please, give me the reminder.
The last item is a metal snowflake about the size of a quarter. It was given as a reminder to embrace being unique, as no two snowflakes are alike; the same is true for people. So why is it that we regard snowflakes for their individuality, but sometimes abhor people for it? Which brought to mind a compelling nugget of wisdom I read earlier this year and LOVED.
"When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn't get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don't get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying 'You are too this, or I'm too this.' That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are." - Ram Dass
Well done, Ram Dass…well done.
I’m so thankful my little snowflake will remind me that different is good and interesting, and that different should be celebrated, not snubbed. I think that the more confident I become in my own individuality, the more I will be able to accept and hopefully embrace the uniqueness of others.
I hope. But again, I need the reminder.
And guess what? I read something in a widely publicized book that tells me I am not alone, and that I shouldn’t beat myself up about it. The best part? I’m told reminders will be given to me.
Just as it’s written in 2 Peter 1:12 (NIV), “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have."
It’s comforting to read those words because it means I’m in good company with my forgetfulness. Yes!!! I’m not the only one — it’s in the Bible, for Pete’s sake, so clearly it’s a thing!
Yep, I’m getting my reminders on a regular basis, thank you very much 2nd Peter. So keep bringing them on, subtle and not so subtle, dear friends. I’m thankful for each and every one, and I’m so thankful for you.
PS- One thing I know I WON’T be forgetting is my very first book signing TONIGHT, December 18th at Lolli’s in Mariemont, from 6-8pm. Stop in for a minute, or stay the whole time — I’d love to see you! As always, Lolli's has beautiful items for everyone on your holiday list.
PSST -- consider yourself reminded. ;)