Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Baffled

Like many other times before this one, today I sat in the library watching my two youngest play and chew on toys that have been chewed on by hundreds of kids before them.  Only today I happened to overhear (and then actively listen in on, to be honest) a conversation between two other moms.  They seemed to be old friends, catching up as their herd of children played in the same area.  One mom had four young boys, the other had three girls and another baby girl still growing in her tummy.  But then the mom of boys introduced her sister (who had her own tribe of boys) to the mom of girls, and in the course of the introduction I learned that these two moms had just met each other a few weeks before in that same library.  They struck up an acquaintanceship based on the fact that they both have more than the average amount of children.  They chatted about lots of things, including the very personal and controversial topics of home birth and homeschooling. And then the mom of girls asked the mom of boys for her phone number so they could get together sometime.  I was watching (out of the corner of my eye so they couldn't really see that I was being rude and listening in) the sprouting of an actual friendship.

My first thought?  Why can't I build friends like that?  My second thought?  I can't imagine ever starting a friendship that way!  The fact is, I'm just not made that way.  I don't feel the freedom to charge into someone's life to see if there is any chance of forging a friendship, even though they might not mind if I did.  I'm not sure if I would mind if someone did it to me, although I know I don't send off "I'm friendly!  Get to know me!" signals. 

Do extroverts obsess over their extrovertedness as much as introverts obsess over their introvertedness?  I don't know, but I do know that I constantly think about how much of an introvert I am and wonder why God made me this way.  Why would He make introverts?  How can I be effective for His Kingdom when I have such a hard time relating to other people?  Surely He must have a reason and we must fit into his plan somehow.

Lately I've been coaching myself on not measuring myself by the world's standards of success, but on God's standards.  It's still not that easy.  Even Christian sites and gurus seems to measure effectiveness by how many people you can touch, like all you need is a big tally count going. 

My point is, God gave me this personality.  And while I know I need to stretch my comfort zone, I do not believe that I need to completely change my personality to be effective for Him.  I just still don't know what it's supposed to look like.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Wish

I wish I liked gardening.  It seems like such a good idea.  And I suppose it seems doable.  But I don't like getting dirty and I really don't like bugs.  And I'm just not motivated in that area, although I do with I liked it.

I wish I could pull off colored jeans.  Or anything in style.  But you can't really find in style clothes on clearance racks.  And I'm afraid if I ever actually wore something (or a whole outfit) that was in style I'd be uncomfortable the whole time, like everyone knew I was pretending to be something I'm not.

I wish I loved cleaning.  Monica-style.  You know, getting an actual thrill over cleaning products and the act of removing the unseen dirt from things.

I wish I knew how to build things with wood.  Like a custom booth-style table for our dining room and a bunk bed for my girls room, because I haven't ever seen anything I really liked that I could buy in a store, but I have seen things that I've liked in magazines and they either don't exist in stores or will cost celebrity money to actually buy for your house.

I wish I loved to eat vegetables.  Heck, I wish I remembered to prepare at least one vegetable for dinner each night.

I wish I could write the way actual writers write.  Consistently.  Every day.  Good or bad.  Because if they don't they feel it.  But I don't feel it if I don't write.  And I wish I did.

I wish my husband would take me to Blue Parrot on my birthday. 

I wish I knew how to decorate my bedroom.  Thankfully I'm married to a man who doesn't care.  Most of the time I don't care, except for when I think that I really should care.  But I don't.  But I do.

I wish Christians all over the world would collectively and unanimously decide to stop using the Internet.  Because the things they write about are things that are best addressed within a relationship.  And you can't have a relationship with everyone who reads your stuff, so every time someone gets offended or feels the need to correct the author, when the whole conversation would have made much more sense and impact within a relationship.

I wish that I didn't have to make mac and cheese every Wednesday.  But the girls love it.  And so does the hubby.

I wish.

Friday, February 14, 2014

I Will Always Be 13

It's my fault.  I fully understand that.

I'm probably the only person to do this, but sometimes I use Facebook to check up on people who are not even my Facebook friends.  You know, people you used to know but feel weird about Friending, because maybe you did at one point and they unfriended you, or maybe you don't want to appear that you've been checking into their life and a Friend Request would do just that.  I know, it's a little shameful and embarrassing.  But I do it.  Usually it's when something made me think of them, so I just poke around to see what's up.  It's helpful if they don't have the strongest privacy settings so you can see things.

Anyway.  I did it the other day to an old youth group friend.  And I noticed that someone had tagged them in one of those "You Might Be A Church Kid" posts, and it caused a flurry of comment activity among old youth group friends.

I wasn't tagged.  I wasn't included.  But I was a part of that crowd.  Sort of.

I was the kid on the outside of the crowd.  Desperately wanting to be included, but never quite.  And seeing all that comment activity and not being included once again dredged up all those horrible, teenage feelings all over again.  It's pretty ridiculous; I'm going on 32.  I'm a grown-up (supposedly.)  And I'm the one who looked there in the first place.  If I hadn't, I wouldn't have ever known.  But I do know and once again have to work through it all.

The thing that makes me the saddest, though, is realizing that my girls will go through a phase like that too.  And there is nothing I can do to stop it.  I can't prevent them from feeling the hurt of kids who reject them or just plain forget them.  And by that time, they probably won't really want my help anyway.  Right now it's easy to just imagine that my girls will always be "one of the gang," but the reality is, they may not be. 

And that is a worse thought than me remembering all that angst and drama.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Did It: I Took My Girls' Toys Away Too

It would be easy to blame drastic actions on the new year, but the truth is I have been thinking about this for awhile.  And maybe you'll see that, despite this title, my actions weren't really all that drastic.

It all started a few months ago when I read this blog post about a mother who took all her kids' toys away.  I was amazed, but let it go.  Then a friend of mine posted the article again on her Facebook page a few weeks ago, and I opened it and left it open on my computer for about a week.  It's a fascinating idea: taking all your kids toys away.  I'm sure most mothers are tempted, especially during the clean-up/clean-up fight portion of each day.  But can you really do it?  What will your children do?  Would it ruin them for life?  So I mulled it over for awhile.  Then my husband read the article and said he was on board.

So here's how it actually happened: last Friday we were going to have our carpets cleaned in our living room and our girls' bedroom, the two major offenders of mess.  So I brought out big tubs and put all their toys in them, leaving out a few precious bed buddies and two or three new toys from Christmas.  The girls watched me do it.  They asked why, and I told them because we were having our carpets cleaned.  They thought nothing of it.  Then I took the toys down to our basement and put them back with the piles and piles of other junk.  And I left them there.  The carpet guy came and went, the carpets dried and we put the rooms back together.  Minus the toys.

Guess what?  My girls have not once in the past week asked for their toys.  Not. Once.  They have their bed buddies and those few toys left, and my middle girl really would rather spend all her time coloring anyway.  I left out the coloring stuff and the puzzles are accessible.  I also left out all the baby toys for the 10 month old, and for some reason, my girls are satisfied.  Completely.

I'm trying not to feel like a big schmuck.  I agonized this Christmas season trying to figure out what to get my girls for Christmas.  We don't get them tons of stuff anyway, but apparently I didn't need to get them a thing. Their beloved Tummy Stuffers were all they needed.  And when I think of the past few years of birthdays and Christmases and all the stuff we got for them that is now just sitting in tubs in the basement, not missed by my girls, well, regret is the only word I can think of.

I'm not heartless.  I did leave out a few toys, especially the ones that I see them playing with regularly.  And my husband and I decided that they can have any toy they want from the basement, but only if they ask for it.  The point is, though, that they need to ask for it specifically.  If they miss something, I am more than happy to get it for them.  But so far they don't miss anything.  And maybe I'll adopt the one in, one out rule.  If they ask for a toy, one of their upstairs toy needs to go downstairs. 

It is so freeing to not be overwhelmed by all the toys.  Toys they just dumped all over the place because of lack of better things to do.  They didn't really care about them.  But if it's there, then they'll dump it.  If it's not, then they truly play with their favorites.  Another bonus I saw in this was a few days after I put away the toys, the girls got a belated Christmas presents from some dear friends of ours.  They were little toys, and the girls have played with them non-stop.  I think because they didn't get lost in the piles and piles of stuff.

So from now on, I think my husband and I will concentrate on experiences for the girls.  My oldest has a very sharp memory, and I think she'll appreciate getting to do things rather than getting things anyway.  I'm not, however, going to dictate what others give them.  If grandparents or aunts or friends want to get them presents, then they should be able to give however they want to.  We'll just get the girls involved in deciding which toy is ready to be put away when a new one comes in. 

If you're not convinced, then just imagine only having to put away five toys at night, instead of 50.  It's a beautiful, attainable dream.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Ordinary End

So what shall we say then?  I hope I've given you undeniable proof that my life is ordinary.  If you ever feel alone in the level of ordinary that your life seems mired in, come back here and remind yourself.  I'm ordinary too.

I believe that some are called to be special.  That is, to be special as the world defines.  Famous, outstanding in their field, easily recognized by a majority.  But not everyone.  We should just strive to please God.  God can be pleased by your ordinary life, if that is the life He has called you to, and chances are it is the life He's called you to.  One lovely, insightful friend pointed out that we are part of a bigger picture, and quite possibly our part of the picture may be to quietly and faithfully serve in a way that isn't great or big, but is absolutely necessary.  And maybe that's the point of this whole thing: your life may be ordinary, but it's necessary.  Just like a seemingly insignificant screw in the middle of a swing set.  No one looks at or admires the screw, but if that screw were gone the swing set becomes unsafe and could do some real damage.  Be the screw, and rest in the fact that you are necessary to this life.

And regarding Pinterest and Facebook, I've noticed a trend where it is becoming popular to declare that "this may be unpopular, but people should stay off of Pinterest and Facebook!  It's not real!  It's fake!"  I roll my eyes at that.  I think we just need to have boundaries.  First, realize that Facebook and Pinterest are someone's highlight reels, and it doesn't make you better to write someone off just because they are showing you their best.  That smacks of being a sore loser.  Rejoice with their successes.  And all the while, remember that it is probably not their ordinary, and that is why they are sharing it.  Second, especially with Pinterest, if you find that you are overwhelmed or feel bad about your life while scrolling through pictures of fabulous bathrooms or gardens or whatever, then for heaven's sake stop looking at those!  You have the power to choose what you pin on Pinterest.  Choose one or two areas that you would like inspiration in and just seek out those.  I mostly use Pinterest for dinner ideas.  If you are interested in baking, just look for yummy cookies.  Stop pinning things that cause you discontent, and pin things that you know are realistic for your life.

So ends our journey of ordinary together.  But my ordinary life continues.  I'm here if you need someone to just be ordinary with you.

Missed any ordinary-ness?  Catch up here!
31 Days of Ordinary


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ordinary Vs. Mediocrity

My outside flower pot.  I never got around to putting anything in it this year, so my daughters did instead.
I think we've gotten to the point where we believe or assume that if something is ordinary then it is mediocre.  Which is fine if you go with the definition of mediocre as something that is neither good nor bad.  But not if you go with the definition that says that mediocre is inferior.

I believe the Lord is honored by excellence.  Whatever gift He's given you or task He's given you, you should do it as excellent as you can.  But I also believe that you can be excellent in being ordinary.  And if you are excellent in your ordinary, then you are not inferior.

Our society uses words like "ordinary" as a weapon or insult.  There is a scene in an episode of Grey's Anatomy (season 3, I believe) where Meredith's emotionally unavailable and almost abusive mother has a brief period of lucidity in the midst of her full-blown, early onset Alzheimers.  She understands what is going on, so she asks Meredith to fill her in on what's happened in the past five years or so that she's been sick.  Meredith begins to tell her about going to med school and being a surgical intern and about the relationship she's having with her boyfriend, and her mother's face clouds over like a thunderstorm.  She interrupts Meredith, blasting her about how she raised her to be extraordinary and to imagine her disappointment at waking up after five years and finding her daughter to be no more than ordinary.  Meredith is crushed.  It's a devastating scene to watch.  And a perfect example of why we're all so scared to be labeled ordinary.

If you live an ordinary life, does that mean your life is mediocre?  Maybe.  But not if mediocre means inferior to you.  Because your life is not inferior.  And don't let the world tell you otherwise.  Because that would be a lie.

Missed any ordinary-ness?  Catch up here!
31 Days of Ordinary

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ordinary Hospitality

I am NOT gifted in the area of hospitality.  I know a few of those people.  They're awesome.  But I'm not one of them.  However, I desperately wish I were.  So I've done my best to learn as much as I can.  And what I've learned is that extraordinary doesn't matter as much as we think it does when it comes to hospitality. 

I've never been served something fancy at a friend's house.  We have these friends that for a year or two every time we went over to their house (which was quite often, because they are some of those awesome hospitality people) we ate burgers and hot dogs.  And we loved it.  It's food we like and it's people we like, and we never came away thinking "burgers again?!?!"  We've been to their house when it was perfectly cleaned for guests, and we've been when it's not perfectly clean, but I have to really think hard about the difference between the two, because that is not what has mattered to us.

It's a hard mental jump, though.  It's hard to remember that other people aren't thinking about your home and food just as much as you think about them yourself.  I confess I haven't made the jump yet.  I think hospitality people have, and that's why it's so lovely to go over there.  First they've invited you, so you feel special and second they're relaxed because they're not focused on their stuff, they're focused on hospitality.

I long to practice ordinary hospitality.  I still have a bunch of excuses: the baby is still pretty young, my kids are little and I'm tired all the time, there's a big difference between simply an imperfect house and an unclean bathroom that would give your guests nightmares.  I'm trying to come up with our equivalent to burgers and dogs; the simple meal I can serve every time because I know I won't mess it up and that it will fill the bellies while we fill our relationship tanks.

If I could just learn to embrace the ordinary in this area, then it would go a long way in filling the holes in community that introverted stay-at-home-moms often have.

Missed any ordinary-ness?  Catch up here!
31 Days of Ordinary