Growing Up Versus Being a Grown-Up

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grownupWhen I was in my forties, I asked my mom, who was in her sixties, “Mom, at what age did you finally feel like a real grown up?”

“I’ll let you know,” she said. “It hasn’t happened yet.”

I thought being a grown-up would be a little less–I don’t know–messy. I thought it would be a little less haphazard–fewer stops and starts, a bit more consistency. I guess I thought I would have it a little (okay, a lot) more together, and be a bit closer to the perfect ideal I had in mind when I was younger.

After fifty-two years of research on the subject and with a firm grasp of the obvious, I am beginning to understand that I will not be able to achieve anything close to perfection in this lifetime. Perhaps perfection isn’t exactly the right word, but the more I think about the things that keep me stuck, the more I realize I have secretly harbored an unrealistic vision of what being a grown-up looks like. I expected a certain completeness, a sense of having arrived at the final version of me. I had hoped to achieve a clarity of calling; the right balance of work and play; healthy relationships with food, my body, my family, my friends, my money, my colleagues, the church, and God. Check, check, check. All done! Yay team!

The trouble begins when I interpret anything less than this ideal as failure.

It doesn’t help that everyone else seems to have figured out how to be a grown-up. Whether I’m at my kids’ school, at work, or on social media, examples of the perfect woman appear to abound. Everyone else seems to have found a way to do it all and make it look easy. From Pinterest-worthy birthday parties and elaborately designed gift baskets for the charity auction to well-behaved children changing the world, there are no shortage of reminders of the ways our performance doesn’t quite measure up. If only we could balance all the demands on our attention as seamlessly as our friends appear to on Facebook!

And don’t get me started on the pressure of pulling off the perfect Christmas! Will this year be the year we finally do the family Advent devotions? Does it still count if my children are now twenty and twenty-two?

When I make my goal a vision of perfection or being “complete,” the inevitable mistakes and detours of life become the enemy, and feelings of failure are the result. When I compare my real life to someone else’s online highlight reel, I always come up short. My perceived failures define me, and I am never, ever enough.

Here is what I am discovering: every single one of us is making it up as we go along. That friend who seems to have it all together is just as scared and unsure as I am. The person who seems to have all the answers has struggles and challenges I just don’t see. The older I get, the more comfortable I have become with the knowledge that I will never “arrive”–and neither will anyone else. We are all in process, all still learning, all still growing towards the people God has created us to be. When I believe other women have it all together in a way I don’t yet, I perpetuate the myth of perfection and feed the culture of competition and comparison that keeps us hiding from one another.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hiding.

So I am choosing a different way…

Read the rest of this post on The Glorious Table

Lament and the Spiritual Practice of Hope

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and-what-does-the-lord-require-of-you-to-act-justly-and-to-love-mercy-and-to-walk-humblya-with-your-godDisclaimer: this is a long post, but please don’t read it if you are only going to read the first paragraph. I ask you to bear with me and read the whole thing or don’t read it at all. I have rewritten this post over and over for five days and I offer it to you today as my imperfect offering. Right or wrong, this is where I am today.

Lament: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.

Like many of you, my dear readers, I am heartbroken about the election. I never, ever thought it was possible our country would elect Donald Trump to be our next president. More than my worries about the next four years, which are considerable, it feels right now that the triumph of his candidacy signals the death of decency and kindness in our country. Racism, xenophobia, misogyny and hate seem to have been given a pass. In our distaste for what some derisively call “political correctness,” we have collectively decided we prefer someone who says out loud the things our parents taught us were unacceptable in polite society.

Whether you agree with them or not, people I know and love are fearful they no longer have a place in Trump country because of his statements about immigrants and minorities. Women who have suffered from sexual assault feel victimized all over again because of his vulgar comments. His reactive temperament worries many as we look toward him being the Diplomat and Commander-in-Chief. Real people are hurting as a result of real words that have come out of his mouth, not just once but repeatedly. As a Christian, I feel compelled to stand with those who are still grieving and fearful and I honor their need to express their lament. This was not an ordinary election.

Yet, in just a few weeks, President-Elect Trump will be sworn into office. In spite of the hurt and outrage, he will be our president, the leader of the free world, and our representative with foreign leaders around the globe.

I also stand by this belief: regardless of who is in the White House, God still reigns. 

So what does it mean to be part of the solution going forward? Where do we go from here? How do people of faith respond in the face of so much brokenness, animosity and division? How do we heal our country?

Perhaps these words from the prophet Micah can give us direction:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.  
Micah 6:8

Act justly.

Our God is still the God of the underdog, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed. Every book of the bible testifies to that truth. In whatever capacity we perceive injustice, people of faith have always been called to speak the truth to power. We are called to love, not just in word, but with action. We fight injustice with our votes, with our voice, with our resources and with our presence. We show up every single day with people who are being treated with disrespect. We feed hungry people and we speak up for the voiceless. We keep our baptismal vows to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness and resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We are not victims and we are not powerless. We have a voice and we have a choice about how to behave now with our fellow citizens. I choose hope and I choose kindness.

Let me be clear, because we interpret what it means to fight for justice differently, no political party has all the answers. No matter who we voted for on Tuesday, we can all agree racism or sexism in any form is wrong. Every day, we ask ourselves the question “what am I willing to do TODAY to act justly and stand in solidarity with those who may be being treated unfairly?”

I attended a program at my church on Saturday and was inspired by a message about “hope as spiritual practice” from Wesley Seminary professor Dr. Veronice Miles.

To live with hope as a spiritual practice is to say yes to God’s yes for creation and for our lives by availing ourselves to God’s ongoing work of fashioning a just and humane world for all people and for the earth as our shared home. It is to actively love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves; to willfully and intentionally engage in the work of transformation so that wholeness and wellbeing will become the normative expression of human existence.

Dr. Miles went on to say that Practices of Hope might include the following:

  • Compassion
  • Boundary Crossing
  • Hospitality
  • Extravagant Love
  • Intercessory Prayer
  • Truth Telling
  • Righteous Indignation
  • Lament
  • Contestation
  • Protest

Love mercy.

In spite of our differences, I believe most of us want the best for our country. Most Trump supporter are not racists, most Christians are not right wing extremists, and most Hillary supporters are not godless, liberal elitists. I have a group of five women who I talk to most every day, my writing sisters with whom I exchange writing critiques, parenting advice, and spiritual encouragement. They are funny, smart, compassionate, kind, powerful women. We all love Jesus and yearn for the world to look more like the Kingdom He envisioned in the Gospels. We live in five different states, spread out throughout the country. Some of us voted for Secretary Clinton and some of us voted for Mr. Trump. All of us found his rhetoric offensive and wrong. While we may disagree on how to spend our vote, I do not question any of their motives. We all believe we must continue to fight hate, racism, misogyny and other forms of injustice, even if we don’t agree on the political path to get there. I know them and I know their hearts. Knowing them allows me to understand others who voted differently from me. I am wasting energy best used elsewhere when I shoot arrows of blame and condemnation at those who disagree with me politically.

Walk humbly with my God 

We had an election prayer service on the night before the election at my church. At the end of the service, we had the opportunity to sign up for a thirty minute time slot on Wednesday to pray for our president-elect, no matter what happened. Feeling spiritually smug and certain I would be praying for Hilary Clinton, I signed up for the 2:30 – 3:00 slot.

When Wednesday dawned with the unwelcome news, I remembered my promise. To be completely honest, I began praying closer to 2:45 and even then I mostly fussed at God for letting this happen, reminding Him of all the horrible things Donald Trump has said and done. I tattled on Donald Trump to God and then tearfully and begrudgingly asked God to help him be a good president and to heal the brokenness in our country. I also asked God to make me brave enough to be part of the solution going forward.

I have prayed for Donald Trump every day since then.

Holding strong convictions and operating from a place of humility is difficult. The voices on both sides are loud, angry and convinced they are right. This election is a direct result of our arrogance and our failure to listen to one another and I am as guilty as anyone. I have struggled for almost a week to write this post because it has been difficult to set aside my righteous indignation- or at least what I believe to be righteous.

Yet, I have found glimmers of hope in the last few days. I worship at a church where all voices are welcome and heard, supporters of both candidates, members of both parties. We are sisters and brothers. Humility requires listening, both to God and to each other. Walking humbly with my God requires a daily commitment to the practices of my faith and a daily commitment to be a voice of hope, love, reconciliation and justice. It is simple, but it is not easy.

Perhaps this election is an opportunity. An opportunity for darkness to be exposed and the light to shine on aspects of our society which need healing. An opportunity to be the Church of Jesus in a more loving and compassionate way. An opportunity to get off the sidelines and participate more fully in the process of reconciliation and justice in our society. An opportunity to be braver, listen more deeply and love better.

Your words of lament are welcome here, but I also want to hear your plans for the future. What is your commitment going forward? How will you be part of the solution? What gives you hope?

 

 

Conversations That Matter

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“Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.” ~Margaret Wheatley

We looked around the room, eyeing each other nervously, the twenty of us strangers at a weekend training course. Some of us attempted to make awkward conversation with the people on either side of us. We carefully broached the usual questions regarding where we lived, what we do, and the always safe topic of weather.

Our group leader called us to attention, then invited us to stand up, wander around the room, and introduce ourselves to one another by asking this question:

“What is your dream for your life?”

Moving from one person to the next, I stammered through my response the first few times but grew increasingly confident as I marveled at how many of us had similar dreams.

As I traveled around the room, I began adding depth to my response. I discovered kindred spirits and a receptive audience. As we all grew more comfortable, the energy and feeling of connection in the room was palpable. With the ice effectively broken, our leader laughed as he struggled to quiet us and move on to the next activity.

Talking about our dreams is not something most of us routinely do, in spite of our inherent desire to know and be known. Although we may hunger for it, true connection is often difficult in our busy everyday lives. We hurry past one another with a cursory how-do-you-do and an obligatory fine-thank-you as we move on to the next item on our to-do lists.

How often do we begin a conversation with a deep question? And if we do, how well do we listen to the response?

One way we can have conversations that really matter is by asking powerful questions. Asking open-ended questions lets the people in our lives know we are truly interested in who they are, what they think, and how they are feeling. Closed-ended questions, questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no response, shut down conversation and limit insight. Open-ended questions invite connection and sharing.

Thoughtful questions like the following communicate our desire to truly listen:

  • What did you like most about that experience?
  • What are you hoping will happen?
  • How did that make you feel?

If we are brave enough to ask better questions, we also must be willing to do the hard work of listening well to the answers. Good listening requires intentionality, patience, and practice. As a naturally loquacious person…

Continue reading the rest of this devotion at The Glorious Table.

Delight

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img_3165We call our fourteen-year-old Bichon by the name Dobby. If you are not a Harry Potter fan, Dobby is the name of one of the beloved house elves in the popular book series about the wizard world. He is one of the heroes in the story. We got our Dobby when my girls were five and seven, near the beginning of our family’s love affair with these books. We started reading the books out loud to them when they were new readers, but they quickly graduated to exploring the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione on their own. When the last several volumes were released, we began ordering two copies because our family of four could not possibly bear to take turns with only one book.

Bad mom alert: I may or may not have suggested to one of my girls that they could skip their homework to read Harry Potter so that I could get my hands on one of our copies more quickly. Luckily, the books were usually released in the summer.

To further convince you of our Harry Potter obsession devotion, last year over the girls’ Christmas break from college, we re-watched all eight Harry Potter movies as a family. In case you are wondering, 19 hours and 40 minutes is how long it takes to complete this movie marathon and no, we did not do it in one sitting.

When Universal Studios in Orlando opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in 2010, our family was understandably intrigued. We vowed to go, but life had gotten particularly busy with high school activities and dreams of college by then, so we never made it.

Until last weekend.

So why am I telling you all of this? Don’t worry, gentle reader. Although I know you love me, I promise I am not going to subject you to a slideshow of our family vacation (ok, maybe a few photos but only enough to demonstrate my point. You are welcome.)

I am thinking about the word delight today and I wanted to paint a picture for you. As I began to write this post, I sat quietly and tried to conjure up an image of the word delight and this is the what came to mind. Continue reading

The Cure for Election Season Grumpiness? 21 Day Gratitude Challenge

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21-day-gratitude-challengeHave you been watching the news lately? Or spending any time on Facebook?

UGH! I know, right?

Although I have strong opinions, I am not going to go into a rant here. You’re welcome. Just promise me, one way or another, you will go vote on November 8th. Even if you don’t love either of the candidates, voting is a privilege and responsibility. Pick one. If you can’t decide, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to tell you which one you should choose. #NeverTrump

IN THE MEANTIME, how do we survive these next three weeks until election day? In this world full of cynical, angry, LOUD voices, how do we maintain our equilibrium and choose the joy, peace and love of Jesus instead?

I am not advocating a policy of disengagement or denial. Rose colored glasses are not the answer either. Our country is facing serious issues and we all need to get involved, get informed and get to the polls. Yet, if you are like me, you may be spending more time than you would care to admit getting pulled into an emotional tailspin by the deteriorating rhetoric of angry finger pointing. My blood pressure cannot survive another three weeks of this level of collective rage and despair.

This past Sunday, my pastor Tom began a new sermon series about gratitude, arguably one of my favorite topics. Choosing gratitude, without being too dramatic, has likely saved my life in many ways, so I am a big fan. At the end of the sermon, he invited us to take a 21 day gratitude challenge.

Every day, for the next 21 days, we agreed to intentionally and thoughtfully express appreciation to another human being. Whether in person, by email or with an old fashioned note of thanks, the challenge is to notice the loveliness of the human beings God has placed in our lives and TELL THEM about it!

Cynicism, pessimism and self-righteous anger, unfortunate by products of recent current events, don’t look good on me and frankly cramp my style. I much prefer the joy-filled Jesus girl aesthetic Continue reading

When You Just Know What You Know

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if-you-need-wisdomMy heart beats more quickly than usual. The feeling in the pit of my stomach is familiar, a pang of recognition and anticipation. I sense an invitation has been extended, an offer made, an answer found.

Perhaps it is an intuitive knowing, a sixth sense, a gut reaction or an answer to prayer. Whatever name you give it, many of us can recall times when we just know. 

Deep in our spirits. We. Just. Know.

But then the questioning begins. We second guess and argue with ourselves.

  • What if I’m wrong?
  • What if I’m crazy?
  • How will it work?
  • What if I fail?
  • What if I look like a fool?

So we stuff it down, put it on hold, and decide we need to spend more time thinking, ruminating, marinating, worrying, wondering, stewing, contemplating, considering, cogitating, meditating and praying before we act.

(Whew. Just typing all those words is exhausting.)

Yet, I have had several conversations with friends recently who Continue reading