Monday, March 30, 2015

Making It Look Easy

I’ve always prided myself on my strength.  I can push through just about anything in such a way that those around me don’t even realize I’m having to push.  I find it almost impossible to cry in front of others (except for my sweet husband- God bless him) and I’m an expert at putting on a happy face.  At times, my strength is genuine as I rely on God but at other times I’ll admit it’s more of just a really good acting job. 

This strength has allowed me to keep my pride intact these past few years.  I’ve attended and planned baby showers with perceived ease, stoically congratulated countless friends once they’ve worked up the nerve to tell me they’re pregnant, and warded off unsolicited advice time and time again with as much grace as I can muster.  I’ve developed a persona that I’m comfortable with, as much as a coping mechanism as anything else.  During a time when so much was being stripped away (my dreams, my womanhood, my naivety) I was determined to at least hold onto my pride… and for the most part I’ve been successful, for better or for worse.

There’s been little “in-between” for me.  While the bulwark of strength may have been a feasible approach for my public life, personally I could’ve afforded to let my guard down once in a while.  There’s a fine line between private and unapproachable, between dignity and conceit, between self-reliant and alone.  I’ve realized perhaps too late that my strong and steady façade has built walls that may never come down.  Pride is a dangerous thing.  In making it look easy, in some ways I’ve made it harder.

Don’t mistake my outward silence for inner peace.  Sometimes I can’t speak because there are no words that I could make you understand.  If I walk away or withdraw in a moment I can’t handle, it’s not because I don’t care- it’s because I care in a way that cuts to the core.  If you feel distance, it’s not that I wanted it to be this way- it’s that now that it is, I’m not the same person you once knew.  I might make it look easy, but it’s anything but. 

I realize now that I should’ve come right out and asked for more grace along the way.  We rarely get it right the first time around in this journey we call life.  I thought that by making it look easy, it would make things less difficult for my friends and family.  In truth, all they wanted was the real me, not the strong and steady persona I developed.  But there’s no going back now and at the time, I absolutely did the best I could.

A word of caution: if you’re surprised at how well someone is holding it together in light of their circumstances, it’s probably a façade.  If their outward appearance is strong, there’s probably another corner of their heart that’s unraveled completely.   Even if they’re making it look easy, it’s not.  Love them gently, with grace and forgiveness; I promise they’re doing the best they can. 

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” 
–Proverbs 16:18 

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” 
–Galations 6:2

Crock Pot of Gold

When I was 22 and newly married, I jumped right in at church and volunteered to teach the Wednesday night teen girls’ class.  Part of that meant inheriting a longstanding “soup and sandwich” supper that raised money for missions.  The idea was that the old leaders had spent all day making soup and sandwiches and the teen girls had shown up to serve the food and collect donations. 

The problem was I didn’t know how to make soup and I wasn’t even that good at making a sandwich.  Lucky for me being a teacher means creative ideas come naturally, so I reworked the concept and ten years ago the “soup and sandwich” supper became the Crock Pot of Gold Dinner.  It’s a lot less work for me and a lot more fun for everyone else, and this year we raised over $800- not too shabby for a small church like ours. 

The idea is that everyone brings a crock pot meal to share, and we place a labeled cup beside one.  Everyone samples as many as they can and places their donation in the cup belonging to their favorite crock pot.  We always hold the event close to St. Patrick’s Day, thus the theme.  It’s easy and it pretty much runs itself since everyone pitches in.

If you need any easy spring fundraising idea, I’d suggest you give it a try.  Email me for sign-up sheets and signs and look for some clearance decorations to save for next year. 

Abby tried them all!

Of course, I did my nails for the occasion. J

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Twice 16

Last week I turned 32.  The math teacher in me sees numbers in terms of patterns, factors and multiples and for that reason I keep thinking, “that’s twice 16.”  Half my life ago I turned 16.  I’m not sure 32 could possibly feel any farther from 16.  In reading class, we ask our students how a character changes throughout the novel.  In the novel of my life, how have I NOT changed since 16?  Just the thought of it leaves me shaking my head and thinking, “if only I had known then what I know now.”  There is so much I wish I could go back and tell my sixteen-year-old self, now that I’m twice as wise. 

There are so many things I would say…
  • Watch out- those morning Mountain Dews are addictive. 
  • Stop wasting your money on those bad highlights.  You look ridiculous. 
  • There’s no need to be ashamed that you’d rather listen to Reba than TLC. She’ll still be on your playlist when you’re thirty, along with Goo Goo Dolls.   But you can go ahead and nix TLC.
  • Don’t take for granted one second of living across the hall from your sister- you’ll miss it in ways you can’t yet imagine. 
  • It really does not matter whether or not you have a boyfriend- in a few years, you’ll find out God already has a man picked out for you and he certainly isn’t sitting across the room in English class. 
  • Trust your gut without exception or apology- it won’t steer you wrong.
  • Don’t worry so much (or at all for that matter) about what other people think. 
  • You know those few people you can truly be yourself around?  They’re the ones that matter.  Anyone who makes you feel like you have to be someone you’re not just isn’t worth your time. 

And last, but perhaps most importantly: “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” You know that perfect life plan you’ve got planned out in detail?  Ball it up and throw it away.  You are not in charge.  That’s the part where 16-year-old me would have stopped listening, because that wouldn’t have made any sense at all.  Turns out you need at least double the life experience of a teenager to even come close to realizing this truth. 

Oh, how I thought I was in control- of everything!  My classes, my friends, my parents, my plans, my future, my LIFE; I just knew that I was in the driver’s seat and as long as I kept a firm grip on that wheel, things would continue to go my way.  As it turns out, I’m not the driver and I’m not even sure I’m a front seat passenger; some days, it feels more like a dark ride in the trunk.  But you know what?  The ride is a lot more enjoyable now that I’ve realized I’m not fully in charge of the speed or even every turn.  I wish somehow I’d been able to learn to sit back and enjoy the ride a few years back. 

Of course, that’s not how life works.  You have to endure your teen years to get to your long-awaited twenties… then comes the pleasant surprise that your thirties are even better than your twenties.  I’m counting on the fact that this is a trend, and not just a fluke.  I saw the question posed on social media the other day, “Would you rather fast forward ten years or rewind ten years?” and I simply thought, “Neither.”  Right here is fine… and I’m thankful it hasn’t taken me twice this life experience to realize it. 

Half my life ago I was 16.  I was pretty, smart, and funny and on a good day, I MAY have believed one out of three.  Makes me wonder how I’ll look back on these days when I’m 64.  What kind of advice would that version of myself give for today?  I’m willing to bet the theme would be the same, “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” So for this year, I’m making a promise to my twice-as-old self: “I’ll surely try.”