Posted in Christian, God, longreads, prayer

Are you there, God? Because I’m mad…

I have to admit, God and I spent a good part of this last year fighting. Well, I was fighting and He was sitting back patiently waiting for me to calm the heck down and let Him carry on with His plan. Thankfully, He let me go on and humored me while I freaked out, yelled, questioned, demanded, and finally trusted His plan.

Some people will say that I had no right to question or yell at God, but I don’t think that’s true. I think He’s ok with it. I think He would rather have an angry and honest me than a me who doesn’t totally believe. Even if it means I need to question things from time to time. At least I’m giving Him my all.

This year I was tested pretty seriously in both my personal and professional life. People I had trusted fully let me down. Plans I had been working on for years crumbled. Every scrap of self-consciousness was placed center stage for me to stare at. I was low. And it didn’t make any sense why He let it happen.

I pray. I go to church. I volunteer. I’m a Sunday school teacher, Deacon, greeter, communion server, coffee maker, meal maker, and all around super friendly, involved church person. I read my Bible close to daily, share God’s love with our kids, and do my best to be generous in our community.

So, when God let all these awful things fall down on top of me? My God, who I bust my chops for 24/7 let this go down? Well, I was livid.

One particularly hard day, last fall, I found myself sitting alone in my minivan at sunrise, at the beach, sobbing hysterically in my quiet space.

Things weren’t getting better. I was getting madder. Things felt like they were getting worse. Once again, I was doing things “right”, trying to fix my life, and God was letting it all happen. I was infuriated.

As Anne Lamott said, “God can handle honesty, and prayer begins in honest conversation.” I was ready to be completely raw with my honest feelings in my prayer that morning. Excuse the language (He and I have discussed that also), but the prayer went something like this – at the top of my lungs, through tears, beating on my steering wheel:

Alright God, what do you want from me? What more do you want me to do? I come to you, do your work, and do all the “right” things and you still let life shit all over me? I can’t keep doing this. You dump on me and leave me to sort it out without any help! You don’t even bother to tell me if I’m on the right path or not. I don’t even know if you’re here! Or if you care! If any of this matters! But if you’re there – we need to work something out. You need to give me a damn clue or a sign that I going in the right direction. My way isn’t working but I appear to be the only one showing up with a plan! You want to call the shots? Fine. We’ll do it your way. But you better check in. I want signs. Owls. I want owls and birds along the way. Big, cool, special birds – everyday ones like sparrows won’t cut it. Amen.

It was far from the most eloquent prayer I’ve ever said, but I promise you it’s one of the top most sincere and from the heart prayers I’ve ever said. Swear words and irrational bird demands included. He knew I was finally being real and seeking HIS way, not the way I thought people should see me doing His way.

That’s the wonderful thing about God. He doesn’t want us coming to Him with our fake selves. He knows who we are and what we need even better than we do. He wants our honest, authentic, raw, fully open hearts coming to Him.

I’m sure He looked at me raging in my minivan with a smile while I was making demands and shouting a to-do list prayer as if He needed my help to get my life “right”. And I’m so grateful he was patient enough to wait for the real me to show up and ask Him to take over.

God knows our weaknesses and loves us despite them. He created them in us, they are perfect. He wants us to come to him, with fire in our bellies, spirits of fire, and throw it at his feet. That’s when we get the good stuff. The love, forgiveness, and the help we need to get through our hardest times.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

I left the beach without a booming voice telling me what to do next or a flock of owls tap dancing the way I needed to go next. I wish the exchange had a huge earth shattering moment right then, but it didn’t.

I drove home with puffy eyes. I did my daily yoga practice. I read. Cleaned the house, watched some Netflix, then slid into loving mom and wife mode when my family arrived home. I stopped telling God what I needed or how He should do it. I merely stayed present and looked for Him through the evening.

I climbed into bed that night feeling foolish for my outburst that morning and more lost than ever. I was more exhausted than ever too. The weight of using to do it all on my own was too much and I was ready to calmly admit it. I didn’t want to thru to be the boss anymore. I kat can’t too do things His way. My way keeps ending up in a painful place, it’s clearly the wrong direction for me.

I drifted to sleep that night asking Him to run the show and call the shots. I apologized for the language, but I admitted that I really could use some little reassurance some time. Just the occasional check-in that I’m doing ok.

When I woke from a dream around midnight a few nights later, one I do not recall but left me feeling in absolute peace, I smiled to myself with a feeling of relief that He was hearing me. Then, I heard him. A loud owl hooting in the night. The first I’ve ever heard in the 5 years we’ve lived in this house.

God is with you. Give him your honest self. He can take it and He’ll still love you for it.

Posted in Christian, coffee, selfcare, Uncategorized

Morning Coffee

“Everything in my life has something to do with coffee.” – Lorelai Gilmore

There is no denying or hiding the truth that I am a major fan of coffee. I think that most of my successes in life since the ripe old age of 15 can be traced back to a single cup of coffee at the start of each day. And my greatest failures? They were survived in part by a warm, rich, cup of coffee bringing me a few moments of peace to gather my thoughts before trying again.

I cannot stress to you enough how important a quiet start to your day with a warm cup of coffee is for your soul. If tea is more your style, its an acceptable choice also, the point being that everyone should start their day with just a few moments of peace while filling their bodies with something rich that makes them smile.

Pick your drink, but for me, its coffee. Always has been and always will be.

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve fallen to the wayside of my morning ritual. There are kids to get ready, lunches to make, and I need some time to tame my hair before attacking the workday. Like so many other others, I am often tired and getting up earlier than I “had” to just didn’t interest me like before. Instead of starting my day in a calm place of peace, I sprung to action the minute my feet hit the ground scurrying around the house and dragging two children along with me as we rushed out the door.

It was not uncommon for me to be in a full on sweat by the time I sat down in the driver’s seat to head out and drop everyone off at their schools for the day. A full sweat guys. For real. All before 8am. That’s just not right.

My evenings were pretty much the same thing, but in reverse. I was trying to get everyone undressed and unwound from their day so they could get off to bed. This left a little time for some basic chores and time with my husband before I collapsed into bed each night, fully exhausted. It’s no wonder I felt burned out all the time and my crazy expectations for my life were hanging over me so severely.

I wasn’t giving myself a moment to breathe, let alone to enjoy my life or sort out any thoughts or feelings I was wrestling with that day.

It came to a head last Spring, when I was faced with some very real personal struggles both at home and in my professional life. I had been running around for so long trying to do everything for everyone that I lost myself and forgot to even enjoy this life I was so frantically trying to build. I was lost, scared, overwhelmed, tired, and felt very alone in this place.

I confided first to my husband, then my pastor, then my best friend that I was not happy where I was. I could see all of the good, all of the love, and all of the things to be grateful for – and I was grateful, just not satisfied. Which felt so terribly greedy and wrong.

At their suggestion, I decided to carve out just 30 minutes each day for me. I could watch a show, read, pray, think, or just stare out of the window; whatever I wanted to do was fine in my personal time. It was a kind of daunting thing so I started off with something I knew I could do well, consistently, and happily. I would drink a cup of coffee every morning before starting my day.

The first few weeks were spent sipping and scrolling my Facebook to send happy birthday messages I always forgot before and to see what people were up to. I found myself more awake and ready when the day started and the mornings started to be a pleasant experience. Well, as pleasant as any early morning wake up call can be.

As I started in deeper, books joined my morning routine as a way to feed my mind and soul in my morning stillness. Over time prayer, reflection, and devotional time trickled in also. This quiet 30 minute cup of coffee was quickly becoming my favorite part of the day and making the rest of the day feel less overwhelming.

“ So then let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding.”

Romans 14:19

Over the course of my mornings, this verse came up in my readings on more than one occasion and I can’t help feel it was not just a coincidence.

I wish we were sitting here in my quiet den together right now so you could see and feel what I am talking about. If you were here, I’d offer you one of my favorite quilts to curl up under on the cozy pillow-back sectional near the large windows facing my neighborhood. We would both have oversized mugs of warm aromatic coffee hugged in our hands and sigh happily when the first sips warm our bodies from the inside. We would be in a place of peace that we created together.

I would share with you that I believe starting our days from a place of peace is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and to others. By sorting our day out, taking time to process events fully, and making time for prayer and reflection we are bringing our best selves to each day. There are definitely days when I still feel overwhelmed or not enough in the world but my coffee time gives me time to process and remind myself that these moments will pass.

The coffee in our hands wakes us up to the day, but our time of reflection and peace wakes us up to life. This awake feeling reminds us that there is some good in every day, even if coffee time is all there is some days. That’s ok. We don’t need to be perfect, we just need to show up. Much life coffee becomes a habit in our lives, so does this personal time. Your body and soul will crave it as you fall asleep at night. You will find this peace becomes an important part of your day, just as much as eating, drinking, and brushing your teeth. You won’t feel right without your morning coffee peace break. Once you start coffee or seeking peace in God you won’t want to stop.

What started as a selfish quiet time develops quickly to a practice of building up others around you. Praying for those who are hurting, learning to be more compassionate, replying to emails to friends in need, and cheering on those around you from a place of love. And sometimes, sharing your coffee space with someone else to enjoy life and peace together.

Find your spot, set your alarm, select your favorite mug, and pursue your peace.

Posted in Uncategorized

Expectations

In my mind, I should be a size two. I should have my hair done with no gray or roots showing at all times. My wardrobe should be up to date with the seasons. I should make a six-figure salary while only working part time, since I should also be home for my children and volunteer in their schools daily. My makeup should be applied perfectly every day, no blemishes showing, and certainly no stray hairs should be on my body anywhere.

My house should be clean at all times. It should be open and bright, warm and inviting, with lots of great color combinations and textures to please the eye and the body equally. Keeping it this way should be no issue because I should have a slew of cleaning hacks, tricks, and schedules that make maintaining this an absolute breeze.

I should greet my husband at the door when he gets home along with our clean, calm, charming children. They should, obviously, be dressed like tiny fashion models with no holes or stains on their clothing ever. This should also not be a stress for me since my children should be polite, intelligent, responsible people who would never treat anything or anyone in their lives with disrespect.

While they recount to him the stories of their days of perfection in academia in their gifted programs at their schools, I will head to the kitchen to cook a mouth-watering meal. It will be full of rich flavors, spices, and delicate meats while being locally sourced, organic, and completely healthy – right down to the macro-nutrients

Once the family is fed, the children will bathe and head to bed without any fuss. I will then read one classic novel from cover to cover before heading upstairs to be the most perfect picture of beauty and talent in the bedroom. I will be the kind of wife that everyone wishes they had. Then I’ll read for awhile, say my prayers, and drift off into a restful sleep with a grateful heart so I can start living this life over again.

I hope you’re rolling your eyes by now. Heck, I hope you’re laughing by now because I am. I wish it was a joke but these are literally the expectations I carry in my head and try to hold myself to. No one can meet these expectations, myself included, so I don’t think it comes as a surprise why my reality feels like failure so often.

I am not a size two. Nowhere near it. In fact, add a 10 to that and then a couple more and you’ll get into the ballpark of where I am. I realize that’s average but I’d be lying if I didn’t also tell you I also feel like I’m the size of Gilbert Grape’s mom. I usually let my gray hair get out of control before dragging myself into the salon to get them covered up because I just cannot stand the sight of them right now. My hair does look perfectly done most days since my go to style is “messy bun”. Pro tip: you can’t really go wrong when the goal is to look like a hot mess.

I don’t make six-figures, I work 50 hours a week, and scramble to help at my kids’ schools on lunch hours or evenings which is stressful in its own right. I manage mascara roughly two days a week and full make up only for weddings or funerals. I have more blemishes now than I did at sixteen and I’m really kind of bummed that winter is ending so I’ll need to start busting out shorts again soon. I’m not ready for that level of personal maintenance.

The house looks anywhere from “decent but people obviously live here” to “these people are about to lose this round of Jumanji to the crazy monkeys”. I won’t even comment on which option the house looks like more often. I have no cleaning hacks. Does “moving” count as a hack? Not a real practical one. I ruin dry clean only clothes by washing them since I never read tags.

My kids take showers regularly, brush their teeth and hair, and are good at basic grooming. Their clothes fit and are clean. Do they always match? Nope. They dress themselves. Some days they look homeless or like real artists. I’ve been commended for allowing them to “express their individuality” when in reality, I’m just glad they put on pants and didn’t fight with me about it. They both do great in their regular classes with their regular friends and I am completely ok with that.

My husband cooks dinner, not me. I don’t have time. Our food is all locally sourced. We drive to the Aldi and local grocery store that is roughly 4 miles from the house to get it all. Local enough for me. Nothing is organic. Most of it is on sale, plenty is preprocessed, and if we can cook it in under 20 minutes using only one pot that makes it even better.

I listen to Audiobooks, don’t think I’ve read a classic since high school, and consider an evening to be successful if I get to watch both The Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy uninterrupted. The bedroom is where oversized shirts and my fleece pants are waiting for me. I love my husband, I do my best, but I don’t think I’m the stuff dreams are made of. Unless you’re into snoring and drooling. I’m an amazing sleeper…once I toss and turn for an hour then use the bathroom three times and finally pass out. I wake up the next morning tired, with a rough idea of what I need to get done, and then do my best to adjust as countless unexpected things are thrown at me.

See? I’m not living up to any expectations that I have in my head. So, I’m giving up on them. I realize that the things I feel I should be doing are all just put there by me. No one has ever asked me to be or do everything for everyone all the time. I just seem to think that’s my job. I also think that I am not the only woman in this boat. While everyone may not be going to my extremes (I really hope no one else is) we all have these ideas of what we should or could be doing that are seriously not fair. Of course I can’t live up to them and it’s no wonder I feel like a failure since I’m using that as my measuring stick.

I’m over it though. Totally. I see these ideas for what they are – b.s. competitive crap. I’m not doing it. Life isn’t a competition, I’m not trying to out-do anyone else, and I am certainly not better than anyone else. I just want to be the best me I can, the happiest me I can, and live a life I enjoy. So, that’s what I’m starting to do. Finding a way to get back to the real me, the things I like, and how to be happy without burning out!

I’m no expert. I have no secret plans or insider info on how to magically make everyone’s life better (heck, I’m not even there yet in my own life!) but I am a real mom who thinks she’s not alone in these feelings. I am not perfect but I am honest, real, raw, and learning to love my flaws. I want to share this journey with you here. The ups and the downs for me, so maybe you can find something that help you too. Or suggest something I can try! I certainly can’t do this on my own.

If you’re messy, imperfect, tired, and flawed – this is the place for you.