Thursday, April 15, 2021 Posted as a blog here.
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
The Five Hundred Dollar Dirty Sneakers.
Surely there are a thousand blog posts about this, and I have not done any research on it whatsoever. I just think it’s about time I editorialize on Golden Goose sneakers. These shoes demand commentary despite their triviality; I shouldn’t contribute any mental energy toward it, but honestly, this is one of the most ironic products I have ever laid eyes on.
While we watch society implode all around us, hundreds of citizens currently strut around panning for likes in their Golden Goose shoes, gleefully impervious to the worlds’ existential crises.
Now before I tear into this situation, I want to give a nod to the painful truth that these sneakers have a *killer* silhouette, and whenever I have seen them in person, my eyes dazzle. I love love love the way they grace a foot. I hate to admit this, but Golden Goose discovered the precise spot a sneaker should rise and go no further. Sigh. Huge heart eyes.
But that’s exactly how far my delight extends for these shoes…not even ankle high.
In case you are unaware–and if you are unaware that’s probably a good thing–Golden Goose are hand-crafted, Italian, low-top “lifestyle” sneakers. They come in a variety of colors and textures. They claim that they are “contemporary art for your and your children’s feet.” And the signature stylistic element common to nearly the entire Golden Goose inventory: they’re made to look like they were pulled out of a landfill.
No, I am serious. Out of the box, the shoes appear to have been already worn for years. They’re delivered pre-soiled, scuffed up, probably smell like fish, and they look exactly like shoes you would find at the bottom of a McDonald’s dumpster.
These sneakers are marketed toward people who want to *look* like they don’t care.
Let me tell you, people wearing Golden Goose are caring, a lot. And the executives at corporate are laughing all the way to the bank as impressionable consumers drop five hundred dollars per pair on these puppies. Ya read right.
The sneakers “pick up elements of every place and every object that remind us of our journey.” Translation: because we no longer go anywhere or do anything in 3D world, there is now a market for shoes that make it look like you actually do things.
If we want a snapshot of what is wrong with our society, we can just stop right here. In the face of all the poverty and oppression in the world, people happily shell out $500 a pop for “haute couture” dirty garbage shoes, with no reservations whatsoever…how insulting is that to actual impoverished people?
Why is this happening? It just goes to show you the power of social media. Hundreds of accounts have instafluence on us, and taste in clothing/style is no exception.
Life imitates art–this was all foretold it in a movie I saw in college:
How did Golden Goose know when America was ready for this, and are they concerned with copyright infringement?
P.S. No judgment if you have a pair or two of GG. Each of us has different convictions about different issues. And while I won’t be wearing that brand on principal, I like the look and I think the Adidas Stan Smiths substitute perfectly. (Though they do hit a wee bit higher than the Goldens.) I purchased beat up pair on Poshmark for 18 dollars, and I wear them constantly.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
This weekend Eric and I attended a conference in rural Pennsylvania. All of the attendees were either active or retired military, so everyone had plenty in common professionally and culturally. We all have similar adventures and ordeals! There is one specific experience within the military which has consistently left me feeling alone.
It is pretty hard to find anyone in this subculture who understands failure. The ubiquitous question, “what’s next for you guys” is effectively our discussing the weather. This is a culture that assumes that performance equals progress. If you perform well, you will progress. We found out the hard way that that is not always the case, and there doesn’t have to be a real reason for everything to come crashing to a halt.
That is another story for another day.
Military or not, people don’t tend to talk about personal and professional failures very often. It’s uncomfortable to publicly admit that there is no more “up.” And when the successful are forced to relate with the “finished,” it’s clear that most of them become supremely uncomfortable. On the whole, career demise is met with crickets.
It’s a quiet and painful journey to meander. I have a much better handle on it now, but even the smallest reminders will prick my emotions and initiate an overflow of anger, alienation, and disgust.
So when a fellow friend stood up to give a talk about his own professional “failure,” you can imagine the panic that set in. I was like, “oh, no, please don’t tell a story about how you were sidelined! Please don’t, please stop! I’ll just burst and run out of here, thereby making it all about me! Please, please stop!” I pierced a look through Eric and he grabbed the tissues.
Our friend did not stop. He ruthlessly yet courageously detailed his whole ordeal for us, how his career came to a sudden halt, and when it sunk in, he could not sleep for a month, and his wife was in utter shambles.
I was just about to run out of the room yelling, “How does God expect any of us to heal from this?!”
Eloquently and mercifully, our friend ended with this succinct and poignant culmination: “At 3:35 one morning my life turned around. It’s the only time God has spoken directly to me, He said, ‘It is enough.’ That is a pretty clear message.”
It is enough.
Like a gulp of fresh, crisp air after a stifling pillow had been smothering me for over a year, my spirit inflated, revived, and felt invigorated. It was enough. It is enough.
Career is an idol with an insatiable hunger and demand for more. No matter how much we try to fulfill it, no matter how many sacrifices we make to placate it, it will never be filled or gratified. It will never be enough.
I haven’t felt more healed or validated by thinking, knowing, that God is satisfied with the work. With God, there is an enough. He has sensible expectations and impeccable timing for all our beginnings and ends.
God promised He would be faithful to complete the work he began in us. I personally did not think the work was anywhere close to finished. I thought there was much, much more to do in this field.
But that was not my call. Thankfully, the Lord was kind enough to forgive my desire to serve a relentless idol, and that our boundary lines fall in pleasant places.
Monday, April 12, 2021
I’ve been working on a thought all afternoon. I wrote 600 words, and retracted it all. It’s not ready to be published. I just need more time to work it out, and I don’t want to say anything inaccurate.
But I want to put a thought out there for us to chew on for the next few days: what do the words “God’s blessing” mean?
There are scores of scriptures that discuss God’s blessing. I mostly equate “blessing” with amazing gifts, creature comforts, and favorable circumstances. And whenever those things come up short, I have come away feeling disenfranchised. This doesn’t mean God is untrustworthy; but it does mean I my understanding of blessing may be very untrustworthy. I am absolutely responsible to have the right vision of “blessing.” I must acquire a better handle on what it means before I can grow deeper in my walk.
Take this quick test to see if you notice any nuance:
God will BLESS you.
GOD will bless you.
Simply shifting the location of the emphasis on the words in those two sentences reveals something. The first one, with the emphasis on the word BLESS, makes us feel that God is just about to rain down some awesome gifts and favorable circumstances. The second one places the vocal emphasis on the word God. “GOD will bless you” has almost a different meaning entirely.
In the second sentence, *God* is the blessing. Not the thing.
When we are looking for the blessings promised all over the scriptures, I think I have placed the emphasis on the blessing (or gift) every single time. And I have never once considered the fact that God, himself, IS the gift, full stop.
Thursday, April 8, 2021
I *loved* this writing challenge, and I am going to do everything I can to continue it for a second month! However, I am looking to post it in a different manner—I simply can not decide whether to post these as individual blog posts, or continue in this format. The longform diary is not ideal at all, but I simply can’t bear to burden everyone with an onslaught of email.
Perhaps this is one of those times something new is born out of necessity. I want to write every day, and I want to publish it in a cute little package, but I do not want it to be emailed every day. What is the workaround?
Secondly, I need to narrow my focus in one way or another—to decide who I am writing to. We launched this space originally with the intention of coaching people toward optimal health, fitness and nutrition. The first 2 years, we had 30,000 hits per month! When we were getting that kind of traffic, I didn’t even know it was happening! I wasn’t even looking and the opportunity passed. Can you believe that!?
Times are different, and perhaps we won’t be able to regain that volume; for one thing, the healthy life market is beyond saturated. But most importantly, the fitness scene is not on the forefront of my heart. It’s not really on my radar at all.
Over the past 7 years, I have come to realize that optimum health can only be achieved in one-day increments. And that’s it. We only have today.
No two days are ever the same. We cannot plan for our wellness in long, extended measures of time. Too many external factors get a vote: responsibilities, grief, disease, injury, bad weather, and ahem, pandemics, will hinder us, so we can’t adopt an enduring long-term fitness plan.
I have found the short-term view of fitness to be the most sensible. Very short term. As in, 12-hour increments. What healthful choices can I make for myself, today? We can only take on our fitness, nutrition, and spiritual wellness in one-day quantities.
Over time, and only looking backward, will we experience the satisfaction of knowing we lived as healthfully as possible in spite of our daily, ever-changing circumstances.
This is even scriptural! Jesus told us to ask the Father to give us our daily bread. Not our weekly, or yearly, let alone lifely bread. Just today. Lord, fill my spiritual and physical needs for this day, that I may honor you, and honor this temple you gave me.
Monday, April 5, 2021
The value of hope in life is immeasurable. Anyone who has been through disappointing or traumatic circumstances can attest to this. When suffering moves in and chokes out someone’s livelihood, hope is a continuous oxygen line that makes it possible to breathe.
When I read through the Bible, I tend to gloss over the word “hope” as if it is some sort of ethereal word that is supposed to make me feel lighthearted and cheery. I have never really stopped to think about what hope really means, or what it truly does for us.
The sufferings I have experienced always felt darkest (and held the most power over me) when it felt like there was never, ever going to be an upswing to the situation. A broken heart can lie. It can make you feel that this is the end; that this situation will never be resolved or healed. This belief heaps a second measure of suffering on top of everything!
Believe me, this is exactly how the enemy pins us to the mat. Suffering + Hopelessness = incapacitation.
When I had my 17-week miscarriage, pain and anguish moved in with me for months. There was a hole in my heart and in my family that I could almost physically see at times. Haunting. Subsequently, I experienced the familiar hope/despair sequence for almost a year while waiting to conceive again. During the days leading up to the pregnancy test, hopefulness was the wind in my sails.
Of course, the deflation of a negative test began the cycle all over again. Throughout this progression, I understood, plainly, the power of hope in my life! I was a completely different person when I felt hope!
I was blessed to *be able* to have hope in getting pregnant. But I have also gone through some things where I was not able to hope in it ever working out. The life and the fruit of this dream was GONE, dried up, and nothing remained. Harrowing.
In this case, I had to face the fact that the next right step was to let go of all hope. Forget it all. I could not move forward in the healing process until I gave up the hope. It is scary to stare this kind of situation down. But God can empower us with the courage to go ahead and declare hope dead, to give it a funeral, and to put a gravestone over it once and for all.
The dried up, dead, and buried hope looks something like this:
Committing our hope to the hands of God is a holy surrender. Burying the hope is most certainly not a wind-in-the-sails feeling. It is a personal sacrifice that feels unnatural and frankly, offensive to even have to do it at all. At the same time, it’s an opportunity to actively partner with God and participate in His Resurrection nature.
There is no right amount of time. But are we willing? It may just be the most powerful thing we can do with a dead, inert dream.
Saturday, April 3, 2021
I am not trying to be snarky about my children. I love them desperately. So much, it occasionally incapacitates me. I recoil from writers who are disparaging about the parenting process. After all, these kids–these people–did not ask to be born.
I want this space (this little blog) to be a place I can empathize with the challenges of parenting; but I also want readers to feel strengthened with encouragement to keep going. This is good work.
I am one who does not inherently believe in self-care. I stumble over the concept constantly. On one hand, I agree that we cannot pour out on our loved ones with an empty cup. On the other hand however, Jesus made no bones about it: we are supposed to die to ourselves, and the last shall be first. The goal is not to win by losing, either. It’s entirely about pouring it all out out, leaving everything on the field, and giving up self every day until the very end.
This doesn’t preach well.
And I can’t help but wonder if I am missing the mark in some way. Have I misunderstood my calling as a mother? After giving it all to them for 18 years each, there is no guarantee that they will become a success. (how is “success” quantified, anyway? Perhaps it means they’re not in rehab? Or not in rehab again?)
I am already nearing the end with my first. I’m close enough that I can see, just a glimmer, that all this hard and good work might not have a glorious effect on our outcomes.
I guess I’ve bought into a sort of health-and-welfare-parenting gospel, which declares that if I get the right amount of parenting correct, then surely we will all arrive at a positive endstate. I don’t know y’all. There are plenty of external factors beyond myself and my husband that get a vote in all this.
But I am now seeing that this parenting-prosperity-gospel has actually infiltrated my version of the actual Gospel: if I am a good parent, then God will probably bless my efforts with good results.
I want to leave something here to ponder: Do I view my relationship with God as transactional?
From the outset, I would shout ABSOLUTELY NOT. I definitely do not see God as a vending machine who will do something for me if I do something for him. I would say that I don’t think He interacts with me in a tit-for-tat manner.
However, I think I may have been doing this unknowingly.
Somehow, somewhere in the inner recesses of my psyche, I operate under the assumption that my behavior *pleases* God or it *doesn’t please* God. hmmm. That’s the exact thing as saying that I can do things to garner his favor (=results.) Inversely, I can do things that remove his favor (=no results.)
But the message of the cross is the opposite of that.
There is no more approval to be gained beyond the Cross. He said it himself as He died: “It is finished.”
I am not sure what to do with this. This whole time, I thought there were things I could be doing to gain his favor. After all, we are called to do good works throughout the scriptures, and I fully believe that faith without works is dead. Still, how might my view of God, and my view of my children change, if I shift away from this transactional view of God?
I wish I could circle up and discuss this with you all.
Happy Easter, Friends.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
As I am at a loss for what to share today, I am gonna go with a sequel to yesterday’s essay. Though, I do wish I had a thoughtful and spiritual nugget for Holy Thursday.
One of the biggest challenges of this “lifestyle” I am living, is that I feel helpless to control my surroundings. Eric told me this morning that I would have fun with them, and I should give them a “yes day.”
This was met with a blank stare.
I said, “You know babe, you should be the one to inaugurate a “yes-day” tradition for our family, and I’ll just go up and lie down on my bed the whole time.
I could KILL Jennifer Garner for making that adorable family movie she recently released. Yes Day. Ugh. My kids are bonkers about the idea. I told them sorry, that’s a 3-kid family thing to do. (No offense 3-kid moms. You have it hard, I have been there.)
But we crossed the five-kid Rubicon. And over here, EVERY DAY is yes day for them. Why? Because it is physiologically impossible and entirely unachievable for me to pop all their actionable-idea-balloons. We got a helium tank installed, and they’re here filling ‘em up, and letting ‘em loose. One…after…another…after…another.
Do you hear me? They are doing the thing before asking. They WILL the yes into existence.
As I type this, I have one child and her friend making “edible cookie dough” with any or all of the baking ingredients stashed in my pantry. And I’ve just heard the spigot outside begin rushing. Two other kids are now playing in water. Bear in mind it’s 44 degrees outside.
They know how to make glue slime, pizza dough, smoothies.
They know how to make go-carts with dismantled bike parts + dad’s expensive precision tools.
They know how to trap garden birds and cut off their flight feathers so that they “won’t fly away from us.**”
How cute you might say. How free-range of them! I am such a good mother to let my kids be kids! Then I would respond back: None of this is of me in any way whatsoever. These people just are doing whatever they want, whenever they want. I am just here to play wack-a-mole on them, in 4 minute increments.
Therapist told me I have control issues.
Slow. Clap. Sir.
Empty-nester professional can decipher that I don’t like being out of control. The question which warrants the expensive answer is this: What is the healthiest response to the constant fluidity of my hourly circumstances?
Psshhyeah. I am scanning for something, anything to be unswerving in my life, and when I find that thing, I grip it with all my strength and pray it will never leave my side.
So yes. I guess I have developed some control issues.
Since much of the activity around me isn’t naughty per se, there has to be a balance I can strike to get some semblance of harmony around here. I need keys to saying no.
I found that one of the keys to “no” happens to literally be keys. Hidden keys. The only way to have any control around here is to lock-the-sheeite-up. My dear husband devised a way for us to regain possession of some of our favorite snackies, drinks, and my imported chocolate:
It is not lost on me that this locker has served in combat. You can not imagine the satisfaction of opening this puppy to find everything untouched. Coming soon: a lock for our chest freezer! #icefordays
**I did say a definitive NO to cutting the feathers.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
It’s Not the Number of People. Its the Number of their Ideas.
We’ve reached a milestone in parenting I was not anticipating. Our kids entirely outnumber us. I am not talking just human bodies breathing (and farting) into the same air. I mean my husband and I have been officially overtaken by a monster that we *most* happily created.
This all started out as cute and adorable, they were almost like a collection of cute pets. But more recently this all metastasized into something far beyond what we could have imagined: a collection of five self-directed, scheming, and ravenous creatures who work independently AND collectively to get what they want out of this life we introduced them to.
Have you ever thought about how many ideas and actions a person has in a day? It’s a lot. Now do the multiplication with me….
From 5:45 in the morning to dang near 11 at night these people are putting their innumerable ideas into ceaseless actions. At first, they may try to work directly with us by asking if they can do such-and-such. But 98 percent of the time, it’s a no. No, you cannot do one more thing that requires a response from me.
So, perceiving my exhaustion, they’ve learned to go ahead and put their ideas to work behind my back.
Ill try to paint the picture with a timeline of sorts.
They wake up. They act like they have never been asked to wake up before. Immediately four screens are up and running and two of them are in the kitchen spilling hot chocolate mix all over the counters. I call them to come to morning time (=breakfast+devotions) only to find one is back in bed sleeping and another is taking a spontaneous shower. I decide to proceed with the reading…now one is making mean faces to another and a third one is loudly ripping paper into long strips. Suddenly, the 4-year-old farts, making everyone burst into laughter except for me. I never think this is funny, and so I make her leave to use the bathroom. This buys me forty seconds of peaceful reading.
After we finish breakfast, all five of them scatter to continue executing their big ideas. I follow up with the 4-year-old only to find her scattering all the clean laundry into the floor because she needs to change her clothes, because she got poop on something. Who could know where the poop stained article has been stashed. (I will tell you, it’s behind any radiator.)
It goes like this all day long. They are using up my computer paper and scotch tape. They are using guest towels to mop up an overflowing toilet. They are making an absolute mess out of my neatly organized piles of giveaway clothing. They are getting into the back of my closet, pulling down my dresses and heels to have fashion shows. They are doing makeovers and dropping my new Smashbox eyeshadow palette.
The biggest issue I have is the eating. They are all eating constantly. There will be food in their mouths while they’re asking me what the next meal is going to be.
When I leave the house for a one-hour catatonic walk, they transform into human-sized rats. All bets are off as they tear through the pantry and refrigerator to consume as much as they possibly can before I return home. Often this means hoovering spoonfuls of peanut butter, ice cream, or yogurt.
I only have five teaspoons remaining of my original 12-piece place setting. When they hear me coming back, the spoons get thrown every which way, never to be found until we PCS. Sometimes the spoons are used outside as digging tools, or for an outdoor tea party where they stir “potions” with dirt, grass, and yard debris. Said spoons remain lost outside where they eventually become mangled by the lawnmowers.
Well, I’m only on spoons, and I am at my 500 word mark. I can’t put a stop to any of this because most of the pandemonium isn’t even sinful.
So it’s just me. Bracing myself for the next wave of ideas to be put into action.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
It was never my dream to become the SME for parenting-while-depressed, but it looks as though this is the path I am walking. I can’t step off of it no matter how hard I strive. Some days are better than others…some weeks are better than others. But generally speaking, this is simply my thorn. Fighting against this increases my angst; I have found that simply accepting it ushers in a good amount of victory for me.
I don’t mind writing about this, because most internet writers are Pollyannas, and they project the idea that we all can do it just like they can. Just download their free eBook.
Um, no. We are not all dealt the same hand of cards. I want to ask one of my blogger-turned-author-turned-podcaster friends: “Do you have any problems? Are you going to let any of us in on any of it? I welcome all your fabulous ideas, but at this point, I’d love to see a little bit of vulnerability!”
On the flipside, I am seeing a fascinating trend on the rise. Have you noticed the uptick in canned “vulnerability” posts? These influencers are uploading videos of themselves crying and telling us, “Look at me, I don’t have it all together, so, like…this…post…”
I am not going to put out a lot of negativity into the online world, because goodness knows we don’t need another drop of it. But false positivity also fuels an unreasonable expectation of what life here on Earth could ever possibly become. It’s a razor-sharp line to walk.
—WITH ALL THAT SAID—
When I am low, I can *not* do a single thing that adds one iota of resistance to my life.
–>Encouraging a crying 6-year-old to correct her handwriting? No.
–>Cutting up veggies for lunches just to see them subsequently thrown down the sink? Um, absolutely not.
–>Going to the Commissary to confirm they are still out of chicken and cilantro? Yeah that’s not happening.
–>Reasoning with a 13-year-old-boy? Pshhhh. Believe whatever you want, Buddy.
–>Exercise? Hmmm. Well, it’s all I can muster to make a box of mac-and-cheese right now. I’ll opt for a slow-walk and call it good.
When I am down, I can’t add anything beyond today’s basic priorities. I can’t overcome any more resistance than that. Its just the sad fact. Interestingly, once I accepted this, I unexpectedly created margin for myself. When I intentionally cut away all this extra struggle, I feel far more productive.
Our society tells us “YOU ARE ENOUGH” and that could not be further from the truth. In no way am I enough. I can’t finish a solitary thought without going off the rails right now. I am not enough at all. Me plus coffee is essentially just a jittery hosebeast. But
Me + Jesus = Everything.
Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 proves that if we just “bring our lunch” He will readily increase it for us. So many days my lunch bag isn’t even five loaves…it’s crumbs. But, when I ask, God always multiplies it for me. He strengthens me daily for the tasks at hand in spite of myself, and He faithfully points out the “next right thing.” It’s a matter of trusting Him to do it. And not panicking.
This encapsulates his promise in Matthew 11:28-30: Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.
His yoke is easy. We are far harder on ourselves than He is with us.
Read more about my struggles with depression:
Monday, March 29, 2021
Today my words will be short, as I have no energy to spend writing. I do hope my vivacity returns soon, and please be praying for me. I wanted to leave you with something to ponder, even if these are not my own ideas.
Lately I’ve mulling over the fact that it can feel hard to obey Christ’s commands. We struggle to stand up to temptations, we find it impossible to hold our tongues, and our thoughts continually pull us away from truth. Moreover, it takes a tremendous amount of motivation to give generously to those in need–we spend loads of time weighing out whether or not we can afford to give.
Why is this? Why does it take so much prayer and emotional effort to conjure up the feelings to live the sanctified life?
1 Peter 1:3-6 revealed to me why this may be the case:
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
6 So be truly glad.[a] There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.
Perhaps it is hard for us to “walk the walk” because we are *not truly glad* for the grace he has lavishly offered us. He died to eliminate the effects of sin our of our lives…and we just kind of stand there, look at him on the cross and say, “Thanks for taking one for the team, Jesus!” and then walk away without much humility over any of it.
May the awe for our salvation be rekindled, that we may become consumed with love and gratitude for what he has done for us. Surely an overflow of gratitude will inspire effortless actions of love, charity, and goodness. Surely obedience will feel like a no-brainer if we actually had a face-to-the-carpet appreciation and indebtedness to our Messiah Christ.
Friday, March 26, 2021
I walked in on 4 of my children watching their favorite form of “television,” YouTube. For the life of me, I can’t get them to stop watching YouTube. I beg and plead with them to please, turn on something that is professionally produced rather than another round of Life Hacks or Addie and Maya.
Are you tracking Addie and Maya?
The content is fine. But this show feels like it was designed to rub salt in the wound of every disenfranchised stay-at-home-mom. This woman is the freakin genius who turned her mundane 2-kid life into a million-dollar venture. It’s a compilation of a supremely ordinary family doing commonplace domestic daily tasks. Then they upload it to a YouTube Channel. Viewers can enjoy scenes featuring them making a sandwich, feeding a dog, changing their shoes, turning on a hose.
It couldn’t be simpler content, and let me tell you–it pretends it’s meant to tell stories that entertain children. In reality, the show has been created with the solitary purpose of exasperating all other moms who didn’t think of this first.
Millions of views! You are doing something right now–we are all probably doing something right now–that’s worth millions of dollars, and we don’t even know it!
This week I walked in on my kids watching YouTube, again. There, up on a 65″ screen, was a sight that chilled me down to the marrow. My eyes saw Michael Jackson singing among carousing Native Americans who were wearing questionable costumes, and shooting from their hips on horseback. I recognized the tune, it was “Black or White.”
But this had to be a deepfake! Someone very sinister had clearly superimposed his likeness into this very, very disturbing scene.
I shouted at my kids: “WHAT IS THIS? TURN THIS OFF, WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING? OH MY GOODNESS WHERE DID YOU GET THIS FROM? MAKE IT STOP, GIVE ME THAT REMOTE!!” I feared for my own safety and theirs because I didn’t know what I was going to see next.
I grabbed my phone to google the real Michael Jackson “Black or White“ video, only to be horrified to find that every, single, copy of the video was the same thing. This is the official video. There is so much to respond to but words are failing me. Suffice it to say, it’s not. holding. up. In 2021, it’s hard to believe this was ever a thing!
First of all, wasn’t he accused of….?
Is it okay that he just….?
Do those people groups really…?
And I thought it very very much mattered…?
Perhaps I could make some funny remarks. I typed two whole paragraphs and just deleted them. Instead, just watch and see where your own feelings take you. 🙂 Happy Friday!
Thursday, March 25, 2021
In 9th grade, a cherished friend of mine wrote in my yearbook: “Leigh–thanks for being the one person who always understands why I just want to scream!” I’ve never felt more understood before or since. Nothing says love to me more than “I get you.” #enneagram4
Her message has followed me through the years, and it insightfully foretold many of the internal struggles I would face in the future.
As I said on Tuesday, a therapist recently told me that I am an Angry American. This isn’t like, Leigh gets mad from time to time. No. This is a vein running through me continually. Practically any stressful event ignites a fury. It could be a traffic jam, a failed recipe, a disobedient child, a trash blog format…anything really.
It presents in various ways. I lash out a bit, mostly to my children. I also express my anger verbally in the form of complaining to any audience I can get. (This has come back to bite me when I notice friends doing a 180 when they see me coming.) But much of it just seethes under a paper-thin façade of peace. I will never know the delight of being “breezy” for as long as I live.
Oh well. This is me, and it’s what everyone’s gonna get.
Don’t get too mad at my therapist. Even though he told me I was angry, he also also blew my heart out of the water when he encouraged me that anger in itself isn’t all bad. He explained that there are no good or bad feelings. Feelings are neutral, and they are there to teach us something. Let us not forget, after all, that Jesus overturned tables in the temple as it was being desecrated.
In fact, anger can be quite a helpful feeling. It fuels a resolve inside of us to fight for justice. It is the inner part of us that speaks honestly and points out difficult truths. It can also us protect from danger.* But extreme anger, the kind that boils over day after day, points out that there are other underlying painful emotions that I need to deal with. For me, it’s the primary coping mechanism I reach for. I use it as a tool to deal with the things that unnerve me.
I would have *never* known anger was a crutch. I guess I thought it was just my bad personality. If you had asked me before, I would have said that I deal with my painful emotions by scrolling my phone, making impulse purchases, watching TV, or engaging in some other pain-extinguishing behavior. And I do do those things. But primarily, and habitually, I just grab anger.
It comes out as cynicism or bitterness, physical tension, and harsh/judgmental attitudes toward myself and others. I would also have to admit it includes shouting at my children. Ugh. My anger doesn’t have good boundaries, and after an episode, a tsunami of deep regret and sorrow floods in. Ugly cycle.
Hopefully, I haven’t made things awkward by oversharing. My heart is that someone reading this would find a bit of comfort in a similar struggle.
This is a lot to process, but I have to return to the question: what is my anger teaching me? I got my work cut out for me.
More to follow.
Triggers by Wendy Speake and Amber Lia, is chock full of wise responses to situations that trigger anger in us. (These are mostly in the parenting realm.)
This list came from *Boundaries for Your Soul by Allison Cook and Kimberly Miller.
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Well. The old Prime Pursuit site is dead. Gone forever. I sat down to tweak a bit of its appearance this afternoon, and in one click, erased. The blog theme (theme= template I load everything into) has been discontinued and there is no turning back. Instead of writing something thoughtful today, I spent three hours revamping the look of this thing.
Does any of this look like it took 3 hours? That’s what I thought.
Never fear! WordPress has a handy “travel back in time” feature where you can restore any of your old settings! You only have to upgrade to their business plan for a $229/year!
Screw you very much, WordPress. I actually wanted my blog to be primitive for a reason: I could see everything from my phone. My bounce rate will skyrocket now. (Bounce rate=internet commerce term for how fast people click away.) I can’t wait to see the change in my stats.
They boast about how all their themes are responsive now (responsive= the formatting automatically adjusts based on what device it’s loading on). That means this will look different depending on whether you are on a phone, tablet or desktop. I wanted a dumb and unresponsive theme, and now I can’t get one. Part of my joy in being here included not knowing anything about web design.
I am stuck in my ways! I loved our 2012 blogger look. Not sure if you know me, but I am all about classic everything. I also happen to be an enneagram number 4, so the fact that mine looked different than everybody else’s meant everything to me. I have to be different! And frankly, canceling my old theme without asking me is horrific customer service.
Believe it or not, I pay to be here!
Over the next few weeks, I’ll continue tweaking the look and function of this space so that it continues to serve me and you best. I do hope you have patience with the changes, um, I mean upgrades.
Sigh. All of this first-world nonsense followed an enraging trip to Walgreens where I was denied the privilege of buying myself pseudephedrine-laced allergy pills. Ya heard right. They ran my ID over and over, and the “system” denied my purchase. But the “pharmacist” could not do anything for me. I had to call my dad, I mean my husband, to go over there and pick it up for me. He is a saint and happily grabbed the Sudafed for me and tomorrow will be a much brighter day!
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Retail therapy is my favorite way to cope with life’s struggles. Actually, no. I am in literal therapy to cope with life’s struggles right now; and as it turns out, my number one go-to is actually anger.
But that is another story for another time. Since I didn’t know until two weeks ago that anger is a stress-coping-mechanism, I’ll continue with the narrative that it’s fully shopping. Buying crap that pacifies me for a time—anywhere from 0 seconds up to a week maximum.
Can you believe I was lucky enough to marry a man who also happens to cope with life’s challenges by buying shiny things? We are a charmed match. It’s so comforting to know that we can buy anything our hearts desire, and all along the way, we just cheer for each other.
There was one thing both of us wanted the minute we landed in the UK: an authentic Land Rover Defender. (This had been a dream car for me since college where one of my friends owned one.) I easily got Eric on board.
We completely disregarded our kids’ needs for the entire first month we were in country, scouring the web for just the right thing, and boy did we find it! We darted across the country to kick the tires and before we knew it, we were jaunting back to Gloucestershire looking the part! What a dream!
My retail high only lasted about three days, because right off the bat, it broke down, left Eric stranded, and it had to be towed off for a substantial repair. After that, it was just one thing after another. The longer we had it, the more we realized these vehicles are notoriously finnicky and unreliable.
I felt ashamed that we had bought it at all. I felt we had willingly purchased a money pit. I worried that our British neighbors were snickering about the Americans who naïvely poured a load of their money into a literal jalopy.
This did not help my Hawaii grief at all. Every time we rode in it, the sinking feeling came back and I would think to myself, “What are we even doing over here?” Up until the time we arrived in the UK, our life/family/career/plans had moved in a forward, reliable, and reasonable trajectory. And then it all came to a huge stop.
The stress of “the big stop” propelled us both into survival mode. I had my methods, Eric had his. But one thing is for sure. After it happened, every time I looked at the dang blue hoopty, I was just angry. (See, there it is.)
It needed repair after repair. Eric would spend weekend after weekend chasing after parts. He would squander hours under the chassis and hood, then go purchase even more things necessary to make it operational again.
After about a year of this madness, I *hated* that Defender. I called it an ammo can with a steering wheel. For that matter, I hated all Defenders, and every time I saw someone driving one, I felt the feelings. Then I also resented Eric for all he was putting into it.
Providentially, God calmed my heart about it all. I really wasn’t seeking answers either, it just came to me.
This vehicle and all its brokenness was a gift for Eric while he dealt with his stress. Forget about the money, he will make more. It was the healthiest distraction possible. That Defender gave him something to put his hands on, solve its mechanical problems, experience the satisfaction of it running again, and it afforded him hours of escape. It was everything he needed. He had something in his life that he could WIN AT. It was the greatest money we could have spent.
So I fell back in love with it. So much so, that I encouraged him to buy another larger one with a better engine! This thing is far more to us than a just a niche car or a really expensive British souvenir. It probably sounds beyond corny, but it’s truly a part of our story.
Thanks for reading!
Monday, March 22, 2021
I have a lot to write about my experience living in England. Anyone who knows me personally knows I found it to be a ridiculously difficult experience from beginning to end. I vowed never to write about any of it ever…especially because I did not want to dishonor the country which hosted us so lavishly. But at the one-year mark of being home, I think I have synthesized enough of my thoughts/experiences/emotions to be able to put at least some of it it to paper.
There’s a lot. But I’ve come to realize that there was a single, common root to most of my struggle to live there: I missed Hawaii.
Just writing those three words brings an aching to my heart. I once joked that the Army needed to provide us with some sort of post-Hawaii re-entry rehabilitation program. They can’t just rip it away from us like that!
I don’t need to paint too much of a picture about why. I think you can pretty much get it in two words: It’s Hawaii.
You work hard Monday-Friday, and then every weekend and holiday–>you’re in Hawaii! It is magic. I love the land, the sea, the people, the food, and the culture. God repeatedly convicted me of worshipping the earth and the sun there, and I knew I was doing it! No matter how much time I spent down on the beaches or up in the mountains, it was never enough, I was never filled to full, I always longed for more.
Even the yucky stuff about it was lovable. Hawaii is a glorious mash-up of gritty meets paradise. After about a year of living there, I relished all of it, and I grew an absolutely HUGE heart for the plight of the impoverished population there.
I felt like we were just *beginning* to figure out how to give back to it before we had to go. There was plenty of work left for me and my family there. And overnight, it was gone.
Now I am an Army brat. At age 40, I have never lived anywhere longer than 3 years, (except for my 4 years of college, which barely feels like it counts.) There are always places that are easier to leave than others. I’ve never had a place get into me so much that I was unable to connect with the next place, but Hawaii was different for me.
I try to tell myself that it will always be a part of me, and that parts of my spirit remain there through the locals we had the privilege of knowing. But my longing to be back has not subsided one iota since we left 3.5 years ago.
So, England did not stand a chance with me. For that matter, nowhere did: I could not have had a seamless transition to anywhere else on the planet. I guess I unknowingly sold out my entire soul to the place; therefore, the grieving process relentlessly weighed me down while I tried to adapt to my new life abroad.
It’s really sad to have to admit all this—but I am sure thinking through all of this is part of the healing process. Most of my difficulties living in England were not England’s fault. I was just very very stuck.
p.s.–Thanks for reading…at the bottom of this loooong log, you will find the first of the entries of this 30-day writing challenge. I am telling you I did NOT think I would stick to this past five or six days, so I am quite proud of myself!
Sunday, March 21, 2021
Wow, the last few weeks have been challenging me! I am so disappointed to be dealing with daily headaches and fatigue! It’s been so bothersome that I actually went to get bloodwork done. Sure enough, one questionable metric popped up; therefore, the doctor will test me again in two weeks to see if there are any changes.
Boy, do I hope that metric returns to normal before the next test! However, the symptoms I have been feeling have made me wonder whether something sinister is happening inside me! It feels like a chicken and egg situation: am I having headaches because I am stressed, or am I stressed because my head hurts? What is it? I already am seeing a connection between physical malaise and mental distress—the anguish of feeling like a worthless bump on my bed one afternoon after another definitely takes its toll!
I made myself get up and go to church this morning and I sure am glad I did. We will never again take for granted the freedom to gather with our community. It will go down as one of the great upsides of Covid-19. While I wouldn’t consider myself an extravert, I definitely savor time with others far more than I realized. It definitely changes the atmosphere of our day and that energy can fuel us for a few days afterward!
Anyway, I can’t help but wonder: if my bloodwork had come back normal, would I be feeling fine? Are these headaches just psychosomatic? If I didn’t think I might be sick, would I feel sick? I have a bad habit of blaming myself for everything. I can’t believe I am putting this out there, but I am in counseling for it! I can be doubled over in pain and at the same time I will be asking myself, “what have I done to make myself feel this way?” Even typing it out sounds neurotic…but it’s just true! I am not sure how I adopted these negative thought patterns.
Well, better late than never to redirect my disordered thoughts and feelings. Needless to say, I want to do everything in my power to keep moving in spite of how I feel physically and emotionally.
I have written about my struggles with depression in the past. I am sad to tell you that I am *still* a bit stuck in the mire with it. Providentially, my feelings don’t usually keep me in my pj’s or in bed—though perhaps I would retain a bit more of my pride if I were not walking around with such a long face! But now that I am also dealing with these physical symptoms, I can’t stop thinking that my broken heart is finally triggering a breakdown in my physical body.
Well—whatever it is, I am determined to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to include continuing this writing challenge. If I have to spend more of my day sitting down with a heating pad, surely the Lord will teach me something in this. 😊
Friday, March 19, 2021
What Can God Do with my Messes?
I know you didn’t think I would leave you hanging with yesterday’s “do the work” message! That was a cliffhanger, y’all! Life is messy, and it can’t always be easily tidied with thankfulness and hard work.
There will be seasons we sail through life overcoming most temptation that comes our way. And then other times, we will be overcome. We *are* going to fail. We will get trapped in things that muck our life up. These failures lace our past, and they haunt our future. It is part of the human experience, and we WILL NOT GET IT RIGHT until the Lord restores everything.
Paul writes all about it in Romans 7: the things I want to do, I do not do. And the things I do want to do, I don’t do. Yet he doesn’t throw his hands in the air and walk off defeated.
He teaches grace.
Jesus’s grace radiates throughout the New Testament. The *entire reason* he came to planet Earth was not just to tell about, but show God’s abounding grace. It is a free gift. Take that gift. Open it. Use it. Share it with everyone!
We bite off on this lie that we woulda coulda shoudla done better. It’s just simply a lie. It’s a predictable pattern: the enemy tempts us to sin..and then instantly turns it back around on us, getting us to believe we actually could have lived a perfect life…?! What madness is this?
Our faith will not have its full-grown perfected form until the ultimate restoration happens. Even thinking that we can attain that level here on Earth shows just how little we know about sin. We don’t have the slightest handle on its enormity.
So what do we do with that?
Grace—it’s our only hope. It’s also our only joy in the face of failure. Grace of this magnitude was not cheap, and we will not live our best life until we have a full appreciation for its cost.
Victory will elude us until we cast away the lie that we coulda woulda shoulda, and replace it with gratitude and humility about our wholeness. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Eph 2:4) Life on earth is wonderful and hard all in one mysterious jumble.
After failure, there are two actionable things
1. Admit the failure, ask for forgiveness and a softened heart.
2. Look to see what beautiful things God can graciously do with the mess
Money is great! It might tempt you to gamble until you lose all your money: but you are not on your own to figure out how to get it back. Humbly ask, and God will point out sensible solutions.
Food is wonderful! It might tempt you to overeat and eat three boxes of doughnuts: but you are not on your own to overcome years of bad habits. Humbly ask, and God will empower you to live healthfully.
Sex is euphoric! It might tempt you to sleep around until you are unable to connect anymore: but you’re not left to self-love back to wholeness. Humbly ask, and God will weave your heart back together in a manner you never thought possible.
Do you notice the common denominator here? It is the posture of our heart after we fail.
Perhaps grace isn’t preached much in churches for fear that people will sin-with-no-brakes. Our Christian leaders focus more on peoples’ behavior modification– instead of developing a culture of humble and grateful hearts.
Hold the humble/grateful person up to the behavior-modified one.
I think we all know and have seen which makes the bigger impact.
Thursday, March 18, 2021
A Message about Temptation.
1 Chronicles 28: 9-10 And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him he will reject you forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.
The passage above is God’s commission to Solomon as he embarks on the colossal mission of building the Temple of God.
The people of Israel were priests of the One True God to the unknowing world. It took time for this to come about; and it wasn’t until Solomon’s reign that the temple even came into existence. Years before Solomon’s permanent temple was built, Israel’s house of worship was in the format of a tabernacle: a mobile and portable dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. They relocated constantly, and God wanted a place to live among them despite their transient existence. Hence, the tent.
The tabernacle and subsequent temple were more than a place for the people to gather for church and hear the old stories. Both structures were supremely ornate, opulent, and intentional. God’s purpose for them was to be near his people. He made a way to live among them. Read that again: God *wanted* to dwell with his people.
The extraordinary grandeur of the tabernacle and temple reflected one thing: holiness. You may already know that these dwellings were so holy that only the High Priest could visit the inner sanctuary just once per year to make atonement, with a rope tied around his leg. That way he could be safely removed by someone in the event he died in God’s holy presence.
Fast forward to today. The entire sacrificial system was replaced with Christ’s final atonement. But what happened with the temple? No longer do we have a standalone temple containing the presence of God. Now, we are the temple of God.
If the High Priest had to have a rope around his ankle to enter the Most Holy Place to meet with God, what do you think that says about our personal responsibility to set ourselves apart? After all, the Holy Spirit *lives* in us. Our very bodies are meant to be His instruments of righteousness. The Word provides clear guidelines for us keep our “temples” clean: it’s called obedience. Yet we find it challenging, sometimes impossible to keep our “temples” clean. On top of that we endlessly brainstorm for loopholes to get out of our obligation to be holy as He is holy.
Why don’t we want to?
Simply put: We are not grateful for the atonement Christ made for us. That’s all there is to it.
If we were urgently thankful for His blood taking the place of ours, it would feel easy to keep our temples clean and pour out charity to everyone! If we were on-our-faces thankful for the reality of salvation by grace, we would be jumping out of our seats to obey, because gratitude triggers an adoring response.
We shouldn’t have to conjure up the feelings. If it feels strenuous to avoid sin, take a look back at the cross and ask—am I even thankful?
It is hard to obey/stand up to temptation because we do not value His atonement, and for that matter we don’t hate sin. Actually we cherish it.
This is the plight of humanity since Eve ate the apple and the world spiraled away from unity with God. Little by little, the Lord is working His plan to restore us to himself with the indwelling of his spirit: first in a tabernacle, then in a temple, and now, in a much more potent manner—in each of us.
It is truly a miracle. I am so thankful thankful thankful. Human words can never adequately convey gratitude. It’s only lip service unless we back it up with active response. Show gratitude by continually developing personal holiness. We gotta be strong, and do the work.
9 “And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.” 1 Chronicles 28:9-10
Follow up questions:
1. How does temptation cause us to desecrate the “new” temple which is your body?
2. How do we avoid the desecration of our temple?
3. In our humanity, we are not able to feel fully and continually thankful. What can be done to feel more thankful?
4. What lies are we believing that cause us to justify our sin?
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
When you think of St. Patrick’s Day, do you think green swaths of celebration are happening across the UK? Do you think families cut out shamrocks and hang them everywhere, and that the pubs are turning their beer green? Do you think Macky’s (McDonald’s) has shamrock shakes?
The answer to all of these is no. (Remarkable, by the way, since the restaurant happens to be called MICK-DONALDS!) I probably should have realized that the UK and Ireland were not the same thing, they are not really even jolly chaps, and it’s far too soon for them to be celebrating each other’s holidays.
I did not study before moving over there, and this came back to bite me many, many times.
Our first St. Patrick’s Day over there I was in a panic sending my kiddos off to school. After all, we were in the United Kingdom. If St. Patty’s day is a big deal in America, I assumed we were in for a massive influx leprechaun traps and shamrock leggings, green-dyed food and drink, and corned beef and minty desserts and decorated vehicles and on and on. I couldn’t wait to be immersed in all of it!
The kids wore navy and yellow school uniforms, but I was certain they were going to get the dog crap pinched out of them if they showed up to school without wearing the obligatory, protective green. I for sure dressed in green that day, in order to honor the traditions of our host country.
I did notice that there weren’t any public or personal decorations leading up to the big day. I chalked that up to it raining constantly. On that evening, I walked into a church event entirely expecting a sea of green-clad friends. I eagerly scanned the room, looking to discover the differences in how the Brits versus the Americans honor this holiday!
Everyone was dressed the same. Everyone acted the same. No sign of Irish life, anywhere.
I asked my dear friend Moira about it. She just kind of chuckled and said in her posh accent, “We find that Americans are far more celebratory about holidays. Actually, the English don’t tend to celebrate in that sort of manner. We are more comfortable with…apathy.”
I had two feelings right away.
One—astonishment that no one on the British Isles could have cared less about St. Patrick’s Day, while everyone back in America is puking green right now.
Two—complete and total elation to hear that APATHY for holidays is a cultural norm for this country. This was the first time I resonated with this culture!! Perhaps I will assimilate after all!
I did not experience the celebratory St. Patrick’s Day that I had conjured up in my mind while living in the UK; however, a wholly apathetic one was just as culturally immersive. YES!
Note: I later discovered that a few of England’s cities do host some parades honoring the Irish patron saint and Irish heritage in general. But generally speaking, March 17 comes and goes no different than any other day. Discrimination against the Irish immigrants here in the United States probably stirred a stronger national pride amongst them, and I respect that. But Hallmark capitalized on the rest of us! 🙂
I encourage you to read the biography of the real St. Patrick. His story is simply stunning, and yet another example of Christ’s sustaining strength for those who call on him. This is the book I read to my kiddos every year. And I do make homemade shamrock shakes!
Monday, March 15, 2021
I have an announcement to make.
It’s 2021, and khaki trousers are back on the block. If you doubt me right now, you may remember that I called it on the return of mom-jeans back in 2017. I also predicted the cottage core dress movement that finally made its way to America. So get on board! Get a pair now if you want to be the first one seen in them!
Before I get started, I just wanted to say that I am so very relieved that skinny jeans are over! Now, I think they will always have a place in most people’s closets. But let’s be honest: they are not comfortable, and I rarely feel good when I am wearing them. I always find myself asking—do my legs look like they are in sausage casings, or am I okay? It’s just a nag, and I am thrilled to finally have more breathing room!
When I first realized khakis were trending, I sat motionless, incredulous at what my eyes were seeing! It’s been so long, I had forgotten they were ever a thing! When I see them hanging alone on a clothing rack, they really do nothing for me. But keep an open mind, and stop imagining them with a polo shirt tucked into them. I think you will agree, this is an exciting turn of events!
Look through my selections below for some inspiration on how to style these babies anew.
I already have my pair.
Now that we know khakis are back, and likely here to stay, what do you think will be next?
Click on the images below to enlarge them…
Sunday, March 14, 2021
What I uncovered floored me. In 1789, Equiano had the opportunity to write and publish a tell-all book, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. I began reading PDF excerpts of the original book (in its 18th century typeset) and I was hooked. I was so excited to discover his book is still in print and for sale! I clicked away from the pdfs and ordered one for myself!
In 2021, we will never become acquainted with a real former African slave, but Equiano’s book makes his experiences come to life. In some ways, it felt like he was talking directly to me! And despite it being nearly 230 years old, it reads seamlessly.
This book’s existence is a miracle. Think about the stars that had to align for Equiano’s story to be told. He lived a normal early childhood in Africa. Then he went through the trauma of being kidnapped and separated from his sister. He experienced years of being bought and sold, used and abused. He came to know Christ. Once he had a firm grasp on the English language, his life began to take a turn for the better. Eventually, he was afforded the opportunity to buy his own freedom–only to discover that “freedom” to be quite prohibitive.
In his time, he was one of only a few humans who could paint us a picture this comprehensive. With all his first-hand experience, he had every piece of the puzzle needed to pen this narrative, which became an instant international sensation—one of the first slavery narratives ever published.
Don’t forget: back then, most people were largely ignorant about the gnarly evils of the slave industry. Only a small portion of the population had eyeballs on the actual slave trading and shipping process. Everyone else was one or more degrees removed from the whole thing. Information dissemination was slow to say the least.
This book helped to energize public sentiment toward abolition like never before.
I just love this type of story. I love that it’s a true, almost Joseph-like story. I wish I could hug him, thank him, and honor him for hanging on through all these traumas so that the full story could be told.
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African steered modern history onto a far better course.
But it did something more. He lived his faith in a manner that kept my jaw hanging open, chapter after chapter. He wove the threads of love and mercy of Christ throughout his story. Throughout his whole ordeal, he never once took his eyes off Christ. It was so humbling and touching to read this testimony, knowing that without Christ’s grip on his life and livelihood, none of this would be possible.
Olaudah Equiano showed us what it means to face adversity and call upon Christ while he waiting and hoping for a better tomorrow.
Saturday March 13, 2021
Giving Your Life to Something Bigger than Yourself.
My best good friend in England, Bex, had a son named Wilber. Actually, his full name was Wilberforce, as he had been named after William Wilberforce. At the time, I had heard of William Wilberforce, but my knowledge did not go past a familiarization with the name.
She was agape that I didn’t know who Wilberforce was! And I am sure I quipped back that as a matter of tradition, Americans made it a point to never learn a single thing about British politics after…you know…we were done with them. Then I probably piled on by asking her if she knew that the first thing Americans did after gaining independence was to change the words to “God Save the Queen.”
She graciously giggled and just mentioned in passing that Wilberforce was the man who fought for the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire.
Ahem. Aside from President Lincoln, I couldn’t have recalled one white American abolitionist without googling. I never put much thought into who or what it took to stop the monster, worldwide, international economy built using the millstone of yoked Africans. Shudder.
After the racially tumultuous year, I wanted to do a deep-dive on the person and life of William Wilberforce. My kids also needed to know his legacy. So during our homeschool morning time, I read aloud Janet and Geoff Benge’s biography, William Wilberforce.
Suffice it to say, I was floored. Why don’t we know this story? I suppose Americans never learned about him since he is a figure of British history. Or maybe it is another bit of evidence that our history has been somewhat rewritten. Regardless, I could not put this book down. It was one of those things that sticks with you beyond the page. I was carrying the story in my mind for days.
I want you to read this book, or any biography about Wilberforce as soon as you can. Here are a few of the things that stuck out to me.
- Wilberforce came from money—big money—set it aside to fight this battle.
- He fought the fight nearly alone, with only a scant handful of supporters.
- He fought while suffering severe and untreatable health conditions.
- Wilberforce paid no heed to continual public disrespect.
- He fought against the Empire for nearly *half a century* before he saw the result.
The last point right there is the most staggering. He took this battle on the chin for 50 years before he saw victory. Let that sink in.
Does humanity even have the resolve of that kind? Our planet has human crises that urgently need this kind of overhaul…some of these crises are emergencies! I can only pray that God will in our time raise up someone with a resolve and passion that strong…someone to keep fighting in the face of sickness, loneliness, poverty, and public humiliation.
I fear I will only go as far as to *hope* someone else will do it. I for one, can’t even be bothered to shop for my own groceries anymore. And then when I get home, I have a hard time finding the energy to chop the vegetables they bagged up for me.
In lieu of reading/listening to a Wilberforce biography, the 2006 film Amazing Grace tells the story poignantly. It’s chock full of British countryside scenery, brilliant 1700’s wardrobe, and loads of dreamy British actors (Benedict Cumberbatch, Rufus Sewell (swoon) and Daddy Warbucks, aka Albert Finney, . 🙂 ) For best results, watch with subtitles.
Friday, March 12, 2021
A few months back, my CrossFit coach read Tips for Getting Back on Track. He was unaware of this blog. Kindly, he complimented the piece, and asked me “Do you have a lot of followers?”
Right. That question led me to want to stop, grab a 24″ box, stand up on it, and give some kind of shrill speech opening with the statement, “Only High-Schoolers Care About Followers.” I spared this jolly English millennial from my address.
Look, I am old. I really don’t think about how many followers I am racking up in my corner, apart from one thing: the writing industry wants to know how many people are reading your crap before they will take a risk in hiring you. They call this your “platform.”
I dug up a few things about platforms (your follower-metrics).
- You can purchase followers. There are companies that will sell you a bunch of followers for cheap, via tons of fake accounts. No one is going to check to see if those accounts are fake, they just gawk at the number. I should just end this blog post right here.
- You can join co-ops on social media to draw engagement for your content. Here you can do a tit-for-tit (that’s not the saying) with others who are likewise desperately seeking follows. You get paired up with 25 other people and do some clicking and commenting on their stuff in return for 24 clicks and comments on your stuff. They’ll pin your stuff if you pin theirs. They’ll share your stuff if you share theirs. They’ll follow your Instagram if you follow theirs. It’s generic and contrived. I tried this. You can read all the generic comments I received on this blog post. Ha.You’re essentially asking people to spam your site in exchange for spamming their site, so it appears you have tons of engagement, but in reality it’s fake. It’s all fake.
- The click is the basic unit of measure for the website’s success. When I realized this, I completely stopped trying to broaden my reader base. Because if clicks are the only thing that matters, then the title can be the only thing that matters. Content does not have to be quality to get a lot of clicks. I am essentially vying for the illustrious click. Which means I need to focus less on what I am saying and more on sensationalizing everything. That is not me.
Here is how this would be done:
“Sign up to receive my free how-to ebook.” Click Bait.
“Give us your email in order to receive my free gift.” Click Bait.
“Click here to get a free printable.” Click Bait.
I see this in the online news media sites. They use the most dramatic headlines to draw you in for the click. Take notice next time you do click. Was the article really that groundbreaking, or was the title just a hook to get themselves another click. They really don’t care if it is good…they just need the clicks. Is that what journalism has come to?
E-mail addresses are a writer’s principal metric for professionally quantifying their “followers” (if I must use that term.) If readers like a site enough, they willingly register their email address to follow it. It takes one or two extra steps of authentication before it counts. Without a bunch of tacky gimmicks, it is hard to get people to give you their email! And once they do, they are finnicky about opening them. And every time I post something I lose email followers, and it HURTS!
Oh well. My goal here is excellence. I want my words to make impact, even just a small one. This is far more difficult to quantify than a follower count! If my writing can bring an “A-ha” moment to even one person, then I consider it worth pushing publish.
I detest inauthenticity.
Thursday, March 11, 2021
My 15 year old daughter Margaret is a good painter. I mean really, really good. If it sounds like I am bragging on her, you’re right! I want to shout it from the rooftops and enter her in every painting competition in America. I don’t want my bragging to cause you to feel bad about your kids. While I am not here to disparage her, I will let you know that she is an artist in *every* sense of the term…ahem.
Anyway, It’s one of those things where I (the parent) have grandiose visions for her becoming wildly esteemed and make herself a livelihood…and she (the kid) is over it with my begging her to paint the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing…
Truthfully, her art is supremely niche: birds. I, and others, have tried to get her to branch out and do other things. She has done a few pet portraits. But she pretty much sticks to the one thing. Maybe experience and confidence combined with a few extra years of maturity will empower her to branch out a little more. But for now, it’s all birds, all the time.
My Japanese (Okinawan) mother-in-law mentioned in passing the other day that Margaret must have gotten her talent from her brother back in Okinawa. I was bedazzled with the idea that my child inherited a talent from a faraway, international family member. I can’t believe we have uncles, aunts and cousins in Japan who we may never get to know. He simply has to know his talent has been inherited by someone; so, hopefully we can arrange a pilgrimage over there to meet up with him.
About once a week I wake up with some kind of exciting business idea for her: illustrate a book, create bird flashcards, paint birds all over people’s bathrooms…her options are endless!! Yeah, let me tell you how much she loves hearing my latest idea. It’s usually met with a deadpan stare and she sits there, staring through my head, waiting for me to stop this talking.
My biggest dream would be to combine her art with my love for interior design and creating a home that is gathered. To this end, I do have an idea. But I am not telling, because I don’t want anyone to steal it! I am tiptoeing it with her, and if I ever can get her on board, my readers will be the first to know.
Consequently, a looming, cloudy question constantly hangs over my head: How much should I challenge her in this area? What is the difference between my inspiring her to greatness versus just being pushy mom? I mean, after all, the parents in China have their budding prodigies toiling at their craft 14 hours a day with only a ten minute water break, so I am doing great, right?
Any advice? I am walking a razor-sharp line here.
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Hand-Write Someone a Note.
A friend of mine recently mentioned that companies’ current marketing practices need a refresh. The current model of digital advertising is not working as well as it used to. We have so much data and graphics constantly inundating our eyeballs that it doesn’t hardly register anymore. Companies are looking forward for ways they may incorporate a physical, personal connection into their marketing tactics.
We may be reaching the point of digital saturation in our society. If this is the case, wonderful! I am ready for the bubble to burst, and for us to get back to living well in 3-D world. We would all be better to employ the mantra “more social, less media.”
There is just no digital substitute for physical/emotional/mental human connection. We cannot shortcut these things. Covid sure did underscore this for us! New York State, particularly our army post, has gone to extreme lengths to ensure all human contact is at a minimum. We are at the one-year mark now, and Zoom still doesn’t scratch my itch for connection.
A timely and encouraging note can be breath to someone. It can invigorate productivity. It can also bring people closer to Christ. “Christianity that transforms people isn’t lived out in the digital space, but face to face and in Christian Community” John Stonestreet, Decision Magazine, March 2021.
A handwritten note of encouragement goes a long way in our digitally fatigued world. We have to nourish each other with authentic human connection.
My daughter still doesn’t have social media, and I love the pen pal relationships she has formed over the last few years. You wouldn’t believe how excited she gets when a piece of mail comes to her…she is not too cool for it! These girls go all out in their notes:—they use fancy lettering, add beautiful sketches, enclose stickers and homemade bookmarks and other small items that can be sent through the regular post. They have created a true connection with each other, albeit not an instant one.
I am so glad to know that the art of correspondence is not entirely dead!
My husband has a huge heart for authenticity and intentional leadership. He has a sky-high emotional IQ, and he has a gift for making people feel heard. He recently asked me to purchase him a pack of inexpensive notecards from Target. In lieu of shooting off a vaporous thank-you text, he has taken to handwriting notes of encouragement and gratitude from time to time. *Swoon!* I ran to Target and grabbed him a pack. (Sidenote: there are only a scant few options for masculine notecards.)
I received a note from a college student that has been sitting on my window sill for months. He did not know it, but I needed to hear that he valued my hospitality. I look at that note almost once a week to remind myself: yes—keep going.
Correspondence is not dead, if anything, the market is RIPE! If you could send just one encouraging or thankful message a month, who would you write to?
Monday, March 8, 2021
This entry was posted as a blog here.
Sunday, March 7, 2021
I get a lot of compliments on my house. It is hard for me to accept compliments, because I tend to want to downplay every kindness anyone extends to me. But the truth is, I love my home to death. My furniture and décor are alive to me.
If there ever were to be a fire, I would not be the kind lady who encourages by saying “Oh well, it’s only just stuff.” After the fire, if someone tried to console me with the words, “I am just so glad no one was hurt,” I already know my reply. “Excuse me? No one was hurt? My things were hurt, they are all someone; and what’s worse: they won’t even be waiting for me when I get to heaven!”
So you can see I am…sentimental…about every last item.
There aren’t a lot of upsides to arriving at age 40. But the passing years afford opportunities and experiences that can endow a home with character and depth. Our home not only tells our family story, but it holds stories of our ancestors, and it features physical remnants we have gathered from all over this planet. It is a miracle.
I love a home that is gathered.
With money, a home can be furnished and accented with a snap of a finger, but it will all be mere decorations. Time is the key to a home’s personality and authenticity.
The Instagram/Pinterest world has done a huge disservice to home design. Maybe my feed is skewed, but I do not see much variety there. I see the same set ups, the same color schemes, the same house plants. It’s maddening! We do not all have the same taste. We have not all perused the same markets. We haven’t inherited the same wares. These social media home design images directly influence our vision, but we end up sterilizing our homes!
You have beautiful things! You have unique taste! Your home is your collection and it tells your story.
If you are looking for help arranging and featuring your prized valuables, call me. I want to help. But I also want to encourage you to stay off Pinterest and social media when gleaning ideas. Home design magazines are more relevant than ever. Their design professionals know how to feature a vast variety of color, texture, furniture style. You will see elements in those images that you can apply to your own spaces, and suddenly your home will come alive. 😊
Saturday, March 6, 2021
Have you ever fallen in love with a piece of clothing featured in a shop, only to find it outrageously expensive? Have you ever seen something in your feed that you just HAD to have, only to find it sold out everywhere? Have you ever ruined a sweater you love love loved, and felt your soul would never recover?
You need Poshmark in your life.
I know I am a little late to the party, but I don’t care! I am entirely addicted. Poshmark is a glorious clothing resale company that can heal any clothing-related broken heart, make a sold-out item for sale again, and bring designers’ prohibitive prices entirely within reach. It’s magic.
I fell in love with a tank top in Anthropologie last summer that cost $68. You read right. A tank top. I had been given a generous sum of birthday money but I could not bring myself to spend that kind of money on such a small item. I went home without it, but honestly, I could not stop thinking about it for weeks and weeks. I desperately needed to add it to my collection…it was so…me. But a mom of 5 children just cannot reasonably spend that kind of money on something that insignificant.
That tank was the first thing I searched for as soon as my Poshmark app finished uploading. And what do you know…there were 3 of them for sale, and one of them was my size! I could not believe my eyes! You bet I put in an offer on the spot, and my offer was accepted. I scored that tank for a fraction of the retail price, the same season it was still in stores!
Suffice it to say, I was instantly hooked. It has changed the way I will shop for clothing, forever. Since then, I have selectively purchased about a dozen items from jewelry to shoes. Every transaction was five stars.
Somehow I feel like I am cheating the economy because now, when I shop, I can not help but think, “that piece is amazing, I wonder if I can get it on Posh?” Then I act fast: I will try things on to ensure correct sizing, take note and even sneak a quick photo of the tags. Then I skip away, phone in hand to pursue the joy of the hunt.
Is that evil? There are a couple of upsides. One is that it eliminates one more fast-fashion purchase. Secondly, it doesn’t directly impact the algorithms of your Instagram feed. (I don’t think. Maybe I better check on that one.) I would love to do anything to throw them off of my scent, even if I did see the article of clothing on an IG influencer. Finally, I love the concept of rehoming these different pieces so that they are not overfilling someone’s closet, or worse—a landfill.
I have made about 200 dollars selling some previously loved items out of my family’s closets. You would be surprised what people buy! Most things I donate to Goodwill or Salvation Army. But those select items that can fetch a few dollars can be hard to just give away. I took the plunge and listed them, and what do you know! I have made quite a few sales.
All of it is so satisfying.
After saying all this, I am now looking back. I probably should have been writing profusely during this pandemic. Instead, I used my excess free time to feed my fire for retail therapy, and become addicted to another app on my phone. What can I say? I think this 30-day writing challenge is probably good for me.
Friday, March 5, 2021
It has been said that “expectation breeds future resentment.” Another way of saying this could be, “If you don’t have any expectations, you will never be disappointed.” Two different well-meaning friends have offered both of these statements to me in recent years. They resonate with me, and I chew on them all the time. It is possible that my upbringing caused me to assume that as long as I maintain my priorities and perform reasonably well, my life will progress in an upward trajectory.
Priorities + Performance = Progress.
Simple enough equation. Growing up, I never experienced anything that discounted this formula; or, if I did, I never noticed. Somehow I got the message somewhere along the way that this is the way to progress…to keep moving forward…and to avoid stagnation altogether. I deemed that the worst condition for anyone to be in is “going nowhere, fast.”
Well. Here I am. My expectation was that life in my early 40s would look similar to my life in my late 30s, but leveled-up. (Barring any disease or death. I assumed that the foundation we were intentionally, meticulously laying for the past five years would ensure the subsequent five years were paved for greatness. Ahem. For me, that is turning out to be a big, fat, no. Massive hustle did not leave us with a big old bag of massive success. It’s been beyond disheartening.
So what do we do about this? Is there no place for hustle or intentional hard work? How much expectation is healthy for an overly ambitious person? I don’t have this answer. All I know is that I should have left some room in my heart for things to not work out as we had envisioned. I was unknowingly all-in on a few things, with absolutely no room whatsoever for alternative outcomes. There were seeds of expectation being planted, watered, weeded year after year. So yes, I have been reaping bushel after bushel of resentment.
The only power we have is in creating conditions. We can manufacture conditions in hopes of a certain kind of result. These past five years have taught me that I am not a God of my own little world; and I can not force any outcomes, no matter how much I hustle, strive or create.
So should I stop even trying? How much effort should I have put in, knowing the outcome is out of my hands? This is a razor-fine edge to be walking on. Perhaps my expected results were too high-stakes. I should have run my expectations through an app or something…so that I could get a good readout on how much hope I should reasonably be spending.
The Purpose of the Daily Page: 30 Day Writing Challenge
Thursday, March 4, 2021
I heard the most inspiring podcast for writers this week. Isaac Morehouse‘s podcast “How Daily Blogging Changed My Life” lit a fire in me that I have not felt in a good while. Bottom line up front: he committed to blogging (…um, writing…please call it writing…) daily for 30 days straight, just to see what would happen. You should listen to it. All week I have been ruminating over how to complete this challenge here, without inundating my sweet email followers with a daily email. Nothing will shrink my email list faster than spamming everyone with my thoughts! So, I created this page in order to complete the challenge without drastically changing my format.
Primarily I am hoping to hit 300-500 published words per day, without overthinking or overediting. I want to improve my train of thought, and increase my personal confidence in my content. I want to be able to think of a synonym for the word “really” or “very” without hitting up thesaurus.com. I also want to broaden my productivity and creativity. The mundane nature of motherhood, combined with the monotony of La Vida ‘Rona, have combined to sap my joie de vive. How many cup o’noodles can a 40-year-old woman make before she contracts a permanent thousand-yard stare?
I simply love writing, I am not sure why. I don’t even really know how writing found me, or what I am ultimately supposed to do with it. But I can tell you it nags at me constantly. Whenever something notable happens around here, a small voice whispers: “you should write about that.” And I whisper back: “Be quiet. No one cares.” Alas the moment passes me by, and the story promply dies. Other times, I will get that spark to sit down and write…and what do you know…my floors suddenly need to be washed. This type of resistance comes against me day after day. It’ll do me some good to defy it for a time, and maybe along the way I will learn a thing or two.
Do you have a “thing”? Maybe it is painting, sewing, baking, even simply taking a walk? All of this creativity is inside of us just waiting to burst forth, and it takes effort to participate with it! Creating produces an internal satisfaction that consuming can never offer. The purpose for it may be as simple as that.