Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Make it happen.

Thanks again to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life link-up.

Several years ago, I went through a Julia Child phase.  I read My Life in France several times, watched Julie & Julia, and visited the Julia Child exhibit at the Smithsonian, and planned out multiple gourmet meals for several weeks running, several of which I still use regularly.  I submit as evidence the stained recipe for chicken breasts with white wine and cream sauce in my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking:

But here's the thing: I was exhausted.  I was neglecting many, many other things in my life, and what's crazy is I don't even know why this was my particular obsession.  If I do say so myself, I make a mean boeuf bourgignon, but was it worth yelling at my kids every time they needed something while I was cooking?  Was it worth sacrificing morning devotion time to get the marinade just right?  I think not.

After hitting my breaking point (I believe it involved a crying fit over a broken bottle of wine which had sent shards of glass into the mushrooms), I started thinking more about balance.

It seems like I'm never quite there, and society encourages an unhealthy illusion.  When you look around on social media, you see so much imagery of perfectly clean homes with beautiful style, great ideas for Julia Child-worthy recipes, fun projects for teaching, clever mnemonics for teaching Scripture to your kids, workout inspiration......

But, sometimes, doesn't it just seem like too much?

I mean, honestly, how can anyone do all that and, more to the point, how can anyone do all that well?

My tendency is to grab onto one of those categories and go all-out, making gourmet meals every night for a week, obsessing over keeping the countertops clean, putting Scripture verses on all the write-able surfaces, buying materials for every foldable known to humankind, getting to the gym or out on a run at ridiculous hours.

First of all, that's completely exhausting and, frankly, unsustainable.

Second of all, every time I put extreme focus on one area, EVERY TIME, I neglect the others.  And I bet I'm not the only one.

One of my life goals is to be in balance, and I follow a few bloggers who seem to have figured out how to hold a nice level of tension between all of these things (or are brutally honest in their pursuit of balance, which I appreciate even more!).  The Nester, Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey, Glennon Melton and, right now especially, Lara Casey spring immediately to mind.

I always do better when I set goals, but the traditional goal-setting process hasn't usually worked out for me.  I have a little bit of a patience problem, so either I overshoot and get frustrated by too little progress in too little time, or I undercompensate (is that a word??) to make sure the goal is reachable and wind up feeling unfulfilled because I know I could've done more or better or faster.

A few weeks ago I purchased a set of PowerSheets from Lara Casey, and so far I love them.  I'm still in the very beginning stages of using them, where you write down thoughts about yourself, what's important to you, and your Big Ideas for what you want to "make happen" in the next six months, but I can already tell this will be much better for me than previous attempts.

SMART goals, I'm looking at you.

PowerSheets actually work a lot like the backward design process in Understanding by Design, which my teachers friends should recognize!

First (and so far only) word on my Big Ideas list: BALANCE

Next up, I write down what did and didn't work for me over the last year and the lessons I learned from those experiences (hello, new baby, there should be plenty of material here!), then onto What Fires Me Up.  The whole point of these sheets is to help you discover your passions and figure out why you do what you do and why you want to do what you want to do.

Which brings me to my focal Scripture passage for this whole exercise:

Proverbs 16:3
Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed. (AMP)

Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established. (NRSV)

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans. (NIV)

Put God in charge of your work,
    then what you’ve planned will take place. (MSG)

I like the first translation the best, because it emphasizes that I change to line up with what God wants, rather than making my plans, saying a quick prayer over them, and assuming God will conform to what I want.
So I'm praying through this process that I will truly commit and trust my plans wholly to Him, my thoughts will become agreeable to his will, and those plans will be established and succeed.

Will you pray that with me?
I have no relationship with The Lara Casey Shop; I just like Lara's attitude and outlook on life.  I purchased PowerSheets myself and received no compensation for this post.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Slingshot Undies.

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life linkup!  I've never participated in this kind of linkup before, and it's been great to write more than the usual Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram blurb.

I have three boys: Z (5), E (4), and L (1).  They, along with their father, are my LIFE and I don't have the foggiest idea how someone could love anybody more than I love them.


Personalities, in a nutshell:

Z: stereotypical oldest child, takes himself very seriously, feelings hurt easily, like to help adults and younger brothers, follows instructions right away but often takes a long time completing the task in order to indicate his displeasure

E: stereotypical middle child, takes NOTHING seriously (see Spiderman above), gets angry easily, doesn't seem to understand that rules exist, usually ignores instructions until at least the fourth repetition and then requires step-by-step directions

L: happy about everything, cuddly, loves watching older brothers, only gets upset when hungry/tired

Now that you "know" the boys, to the rubber band...

During a recent trip to Target, E picked up a rubber band off the floor and decided it was the best toy in the whole store.  When we got home, he stretched it across the back of one of the kitchen chairs and played a song on it like a guitar, which was great fun for about three minutes, but then couldn't get it off the chair when he got bored.  With my help, he eventually got it loose, but it ended up breaking.  Obviously, it was now useless and deserved only to be discarded and trampled underfoot.

At this point Z picked it up and streeeeeeeeeeetched it as far as his almost-six-year-old arms would reach.  Brief conversation ensued:

Me: Wow, that rubber band stretches really far, doesn't it?!
Z: Yeah, but not as far as underpants.

Let's think about this for just a minute...


Now, I don't know how he became aware of exactly how stretchy underpants are, but I can guess and so can you.

The teacher in me thought, What a great moment!  He's contrasting!
The parent in me thought, Great.  This means his little brother is mildly traumatized and I'm going to have to make a new house rule and possibly pay for therapy.
The Christian in me thought, It looks like we need to talk about kindness.  Maybe I need to check Proverbs on this one, though I don't think it talks specifically about underpants.

The actual, authentic, real me said OUT LOUD, "I bet it was fun finding that out."

His response?

"It sure was, Mom, but I think only for me."

No kidding, son.  No kidding.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Words really aren't my thing.

I wish I was better with words.

The truth is, when I read my own writing I see someone who's too technical or too ethereal, too wordy or too concise, too enthusiastic or too melancholy, too too too too tootootootoo...

Why is this?  I mean, it would be great for every word, every paragraph, every post to be in that perfect middle place, where it's not too anything.  Maybe it's a mom trait, or a teacher habit, or a church-y expectation, but perfection is the goal.

But then, it wouldn't be me.

Let's face it: I'm always too something.


Maybe this is what living, loving, being is all about.

It's about embracing imperfection in the right now, while still trying to do better in the next time.

It's about treating people the best I can in the right now, while still looking for new ways to love in the next time.

It's about me being me in the right now, while still leaving room for refining Fire all the time.

My pursuit of perfection is over.  Starting now.