Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Me, MySelfie, and I

Hello, dear friends.

Have I ever told you how I come up with the random content for my blogs? No?
Only a tiny percent are born from true issues that lay heavy on my heart and beg to be written down. A vast majority--like almost all of my posts--are things that I randomly think about while I'm running, doing the dishes, cooking dinner, mopping the floors... (Yes, my life is super glamorous. Thanks for asking.) And a very lucky few come from Facebook posts that I feel like are embarrassing left up there on their own and need additional explanation to be validated.

This will be one of those lucky few.

This morning my wonderful "On this Day" app told me that I had a sweet memory from a two-year-old son. He had asked if he, his sister, and I counted as three kids. And my answer was yes. Yes, we do. And I laughed thinking to myself that we still do, because I just might be the female version of Peter Pan. So I commented such things on my page, and then I posted this picture as photographic evidence:

...And then it sat there...

...And then I kept looking at it...

...And then it finally dawned on me what a hot mess of a picture I had posted of myself to the interwebs.

There I was, my big, crooked grin wedged makeup-less-ly between somebody's princess-like bridal portrait and a chick in a bikini who gave herself a magical butterfly crown as an added bonus.

I panicked. Do I take it down? Do I make an excuse for it? Do I own my hot mess proudly? Is it too late to try and fix it by downloading that blasted butterfly crown filter?!

I decided to post another picture of myself under the first one with the witty caption: Because we can't all be Alicia Keys.
(I know. I'm hilarious.)
Here it is:

...And then it sat there...

...And then I kept looking at it...

...And then it dawned on me that I had just posted two selfies in a row--as comments to my own post, no less--and that I might be the saddest person in the world and I'm fairly certain I will have no friends after this.

So I took that sucker down in order to save a little face.
(Or so I could show you a lot more of my face, apparently. Sorry in advance.)

It really bothered me that I cared so much how I looked to everyone in my newsfeed. Over the past decade especially, I have worked so hard to be content with who I am. I've learned to embrace crooked teeth and stretch marks and gray hair with an amount of grace that, quite frankly, surprised me. I've been told over and again how getting older helps you embrace who you are, what you're capable of, and how you process other people's opinions of you--but at this moment, I went full-out Peter Pan. I cared very much what every one thought I looked like and that they didn't think I was a sad, crazy person.

But y'all, I am a crazy person. (Ahem. It says so right in the title.)
I don't filter anything. Talk to me for any amount of time north of five minutes, and I simply cannot censor my inner-dork. I will never use photo filters, because I simply don't know how. (I will be a faithful client for life, photog friends.)

I finally realized what had bothered me in the first place. It was that in the very first moment, when I looked at the first picture of the real, blessed life I was living and questioned whether or not it was worthy to share as candidly as I had, I had balked on myself--and that was maybe more lame than posting two selfies in a row. So let's get real.

The last picture I posted of myself wasn't a fair representation. Originally I had picked that one because it was blurry and it hid a bit of the age that is starting to show in my face. That's not who I am, though. I am a person that has laughed too hard and smiled too much over the last three decades for anything other than plastic surgery to save me now. (And we can't all be Kardashians.)
Here's what I really look like:

And even then, that's only what I look like to people who I've just met. Again, if I've known you anywhere north of five minutes, I probably look more like this:

The inner-dork is strong with this one.

Happy, wrinkly, crazy dork though I may be, I am my very best self when I have these faces smooshed up against me:

Real life is not all butterfly crowns and rainbow's better than that.
I think what I'm finally beginning to realize is that growing older will not make you fully immune to other people's opinions, but your attitude will. There are still going to be days where we feel less-than, but that doesn't make it true. My hope is that you read this silly post, forgive me for sharing an incessant amount of pictures of myself, and know that you are so wonderfully made. Be you unapologetically, friends--because I think you will own the mess out of it.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Digging Ditches

Today I left church feeling totally empty.

It's a horrible way to start a week, let alone my first blog post in months, but it's true. Anyone else ever felt that way? I came into the building knowing I was in the right place, prepared to hear a lesson, ears burning, mind open...the music was lovely, the sermon was full of truth and conviction, the testimony time was sweet...and then I walked out feeling empty. Not unchanged, but unfilled.

I came home and tended to my children with what felt like a stack of bricks on my chest. (For those of you who are not super familiar with the goal of Sunday morning service, I assure you that this is not it.) All the while I wondered what had gone wrong, and I began to replay the morning's events in my head. Was there anything especially hard about this day that would leave me weary? I did a quick run-through list of highs and lows:

High: I had my coffee and a shower. I made a hot breakfast. I dressed myself in something other than yoga pants.
Low: While I showered and got ready, my children did nothing.
High: I was able to still get us out the door without being too much later than I usually am. I gave myself grace for being late to all the things on all the days. Tra-la-la.
Low: I missed a Skype call from my husband in the process of dressing my kids in a clothes tornado. I am likely the person that will clean up said clothes tornado.
High: Participating in group discussion.
Low: Leading group discussion like an unlearned Looney Toon. (Wa-hoo!Wa-hoo!Wa-hoo! That's all, folks!)
High: Remembered my checkbook for the offering.
Low: Momentarily forgot to pick up child after the service.
High: Kid gets a lollipop for memorizing scripture.
Low: Other kid mad that they did not get lollipop. Argues against lack of fairness and justice in the world for all to hear in the church lobby. Argument continues all the way to car. Mom loses patience at children's bickering and SHUTS THEM AND THEIR NOISES ALONE IN THE CAR in the church parking lot.
High: I had the A.C. running, so the cops couldn't write me a ticket and the internet mom-haters could just shush.

I'm sure this sounds like a lot over the span of a few hours, but truthfully, this is pretty typical of every day. There was nothing here that stuck out to me as a reason to feel so heavy.

Then I looked at the list again...
I realized that over the course of a few hours, most of which I was merely supposed to sit still and listen and simply be, I had made myself a lot of list. And the fact that this was "typical" said it all.

I was empty of peace, because I was completely filled with stress.

Like an answer to a prayer I hadn't asked yet, a video popped up my Newsfeed. In it, Jen Hatmaker talks about a time where she felt overwhelmed, and how she gave herself permission to acknowledge her emptiness so that she could be filled. In it, she shared these verses:
"He then said, 'God's word: Dig ditches all over this valley. Here's what will happen--you won't hear the wind, you won't see the rain, but the valley is going to fill up with water and your army and your animals will drink their fill. This is easy for God to do.'" (2 Kings 3:16-19)

You guys. I about lost it.

What with this deployment still ongoing but the thought of homecoming and all it entails around the corner, managing my growing children and their schedules, owning a home that keeps randomly breaking, mentally and emotionally and physically preparing for a move in a short couple of months to a destination that the Army has not actually confirmed yet, my volunteer jobs actually expecting me to volunteer my time and energy (pssshh!)...all of this, and I still have to put out fires over lollipops!!! I have a lot of digging to do, and the problem is, almost none of these things are excess that I can just cut out.

In quiet desperation I prayed, "If it's easy, Lord, please show me how." His answer was so humbling. "You are building walls when I asked you to dig ditches."


There is a prayer journal that goes around our Sunday School class each and every week where we can put our requests for other believers to lift us up in prayer. Guess how many times I have put any of the above concerns on the list...big fat zero. Why? Because I don't think prayer will work? Of course not! It's because I am building up walls, protecting my image against struggle instead of humbling myself in front of others and asking for them to petition for me out of love.
I go to church without my spouse, which is not a big deal while there are other ladies who also come alone while their husbands are deployed. But when they come back, I will still be alone. Do I ever ask people if I can join them in the pew? Nope! I hold my chin up and find a tiny hole in a random spot next to a family of seven. Is it because I do not have loving people in my life that would welcome me to worship with them? (Or that have not already offered?) Of course not! It is because I don't want people to know how lonely and vulnerable I feel in a big congregation by myself, and I build a wall.
All of the sweet invitations to socials that people have offered, where they open up their homes for us to gather? Not going. There's a wall.
Volunteer to help lead...Can't. Wall there.

The thing about building walls is that I'm saying my own effort is enough to fix the issue or protect me from it, and it isn't always true. I make more work for myself and create more unnecessary stress to keep the wall standing. Digging a ditch says I humble myself and acknowledge the holes in my life. And then, God in His goodness fills them up with something better.

Walls are not more impressive than ditches. I mean, the Great Wall is a sight to behold, but so is the Grand Canyon--and God filled that one with water too. It was easy for Him to do ;)
(And friends, I think we all know which of those two will last longer.)

So let your walls down. Dig your ditches. Be filled.

Wa-hoo!Wa-hoo!Wa-hoo! That's all, folks!