Monday, February 8, 2016

Don't forget the "DID" in "DIDN'T"

Right now, I'm sitting at the desk in our office, nursing a headache and feeling slightly overwhelmed.  Though it's only Monday, I already feel behind.  The weekend catapulted me into the week without much warning.  I didn't get the house in order, I didn't make a significant dent in the papers I need to grade, and I didn't finish the two recommendation letters students asked me to write last week.

I could list a dozen more didn'ts -- things I didn't do, didn't finish, or in some cases, didn't even start.  I'm good at noticing the didn'ts.

I realized this after completing a trail run yesterday.  It's one of my favorite places to run: a beautiful path that mirrors the turns of Spring Creek after its uneventful start at a gravel parking lot near a fish hatchery.  (It ends three miles downstream at little community called Fisherman's Paradise, which, in my opinion, is one of the most wonderfully named locations ever.)

Despite the location, yesterday's run was miserable.  My legs had felt heavy; my pace was painfully slow.  Bothered by a combination of coldness -- a head cold and the cold temperature -- I periodically blew my nose on the napkins that I had grabbed from my car's glove box and stuffed into my jacket pocket.  Then, losing all decorum, I blew my nose on my sleeve.  At one point, I contemplated lying on the sloppy, muddy path and dying.  (I decided against it.)

Once I finished, I stretched my quads and leaned against my car, just grateful to be done.  Noticing me as he put his gear into the back of his truck, a fisherman asked how far I had run.  Once I answered, he exclaimed, "All the way to Paradise and back?  You ran all that way?  What's that?  Over six miles?"

When you're met with a response that enthusiastic, there's no didn't.  There's no, "Well, I didn't run very fast," or "I didn't feel great," or "I didn't think I'd make it, quite frankly."  A response that enthusiastic makes you proud of what you actually did.  Yes, I ran all the way to Paradise and back.  Yes, I ran all that way.

I think I could use more of this in my life.

I'd look at my weekend differently -- not judging what I didn't do, but celebrating what I did: catching up on laundry, making a giant crock pot of barbecue for our church's Super Bowl party, reading my students' weekly blog entries, preparing this week's class materials, completing a colleague's teaching observation, baking and delivering cookies for our new neighbors, sorting through my daughters' Friday folders, and yes, running the full length of Spring Creek Canyon -- all the way to Paradise and back.

More did.  Less didn't.  It's a good shift in perspective.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Allan Scott's New Release: "Be My All"

I love the creative process.  You start with an idea -- a concept, a string of words, a picture in your mind, a fragment of a melody -- and then, over days, weeks, months, or years, you take that idea, focus it, pound it into shape, revise it, massage it, get excited about it, start to love it, grow tired of it, begin to dislike it, worry what others will think of it, periodically give up on it, revisit it afresh, grow reinvigorated, invest even more of your heart and soul and talent, and then, after all that work and struggle, hopefully, you love it even more than before.

It's at this point -- when the creative process has produced an actual product -- the creator has to step back, let go, and release it to the world.  And just like that, it's out there.

This is what happened today for our friend, Allan Scott, with the release of his newest song, "Be My All," and I'm so glad that it did.

My husband and I have known Allan and his wife for years, and we've heard him play live on many occasions.  I love both his music and message.  Over the years, his songs have made my playlists and served as soundtracks for my life, always offering truth and hope.  Because of this, I invite you to check out "Be My All" on iTunes or Google Play and then soak it in, like a prayer asking God to be our strength when we are weak, our eyes when we can't see.  Essentially, to be our all, our everything.

Want to hear a sample of the song?  Follow the links above, and then join Allan on Facebook to learn his story and upcoming events!

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wisdom Is As Wisdom Does

You should know one thing about me: I took considerably too long to commit to the 2016 calendar that's now hanging on my refrigerator.  The ugly process of internal vacillating went down in a Wal-Mart aisle: Do I want prints of landscapes or architecture?  What about color schemes?  Maybe black and white?  What about font choices?  Come on, Robin, just pick one!  No, wait!  Would another store have a better selection?

When my wavering veered past thoroughness and teetered on the brink of ridiculousness, I tried to justify myself: "You're going to live with this thing in your kitchen for an entire year.  Might as well love it."

Apparently, I have long-term commitment issues with paper products.

Even so, when our church issued an invitation to select "one word" to guide us through the new year, my decision was nearly immediate.  With laser-like focus, I knew my 2016 word would be wisdom.

Oh yes, I need wisdom.  I need wisdom when I parent, which, I've noticed, is becoming increasingly mental and decreasingly physical as my children age.  I need wisdom when I teach to explain concepts, engage my students, and evaluate their work.  I need wisdom to make decisions about my future.  I need wisdom to understand how to best invest my time and energy.

Often when I face complex problems with a plethora of options to consider, I'm left paralyzed, much like when I stood in Wal-Mart with seven calendars splayed out around me.  I don't know what to choose.  I don't know what to do.  I don't know what's best.

And that's precisely why my word for the year is wisdom -- because I need it, and because I don't always have it.  This apparent disconnect -- namely, my simultaneously vast need for and lack of wisdom -- is addressed in this wonderful passage of scripture:  

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

I love this promise with the intensity of a thousand burning suns.  If you lack, ask.  That part is relatively simple, yet it would behoove me to ask more often, more quickly.  But the part I appreciate the most comes next -- that God gives generously to all without finding fault.  Without finding fault!  No accusations of, "You should have known better," which I've been known to levy at myself, are issued. 

It's settled: 2016 is the year of increased wisdom.  I'll mark it on my calendar.

Have you chosen "one word" to guide you through the year?  What word?

Image by Carol Schiraldi. Used with permission.  (Thanks, Carol!)

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Monday, January 25, 2016

The Lie that We Should Be Like the Other Girls

My seven-year-old buries her face into her pillow.  I sit beside her on the edge of her bed, unsure how to coax out what's troubling her.  When she finally opens up, her voice is pained.  "I'm not like the other girls.  I'm not popular like them.  I want to be more like them."

She's never talked this way before.  I listen quietly until all her words and tears are poured out, then I sit in silence.  In sadness.  This is my precious and wonderful girl, who, for some reason -- maybe a snub on the playground or a comment on the bus -- doesn't believe that she's enough, that she's right.  This is my girl who's clever and artistic, tenderhearted and compassionate, imaginative and kind.

This is the girl who once said, "I think it's time for me to start wearing clothes that match," and then, a mere two days later, dazzled the world in this outfit.

This is the seven-year-old girl who is delightful just the way she is.

My sadness fades, and in the depths of my heart, it's replaced with anger.  Something inside of me snaps -- some I-will-storm-heaven-on-this-child's-behalf gene that rises up in parents -- and, after composing myself a moment longer, I speak.

Child, that feeling that you'd be better off if you were someone else, not yourself?  That feeling that you don't measure up?  That you're not enough?  That others are somehow ahead of you?  Those feelings that seem so real in your heart and those thoughts that shout so loudly in your head?

They're lies from hell. 

They're utter lies, and they'll come at you whether you're seven, or seventeen, or thirty-seven, or fifty-seven.  So, dear one, I want to teach you how to recognize them for what they are.  And I want you to fight.  I want you to refuse to believe those lies and embrace who God Almighty made you to be.

I speak with authority because I'm not going to offer my daughter a pat answer that it'll all get better on its own.  I'm not going to provide a glib response that everything's okay.

Because everything is not okay.  I know too many women, myself included, who for years have entertained the lie that they're somehow not enough.  That somehow they should be a little less them, a little more someone else.  Women who compare themselves with others and, whether accurately or not, feel like they fall short.

Take my own writing, for instance.  Time and again I've circled around the thoughts that perhaps I should use this blog to be more holy and consistent like Heather, or more community-gathering like Jennifer.  Instead of writing what I love and feel called to write -- these posts loosely cobbled around the themes and nuances of ordinary life -- I've chided myself that maybe I ought to refine my approach, focus, and settle on a particular niche, like Susan who shines in DIY or Christiane who excels in cooking.  And I stew: Why aren't I more popular like Lisa Jo or Glennon, or bigger like, oh, I don't know, every other blogger out there?

While I'm at it, why in the world am I not Joanna Gaines?

As I sit on the side of my daughter's bed, my voice steady and firm with conviction, I watch her sit up, wipe her eyes, and nod.  But what I didn't expect was the sense that God was speaking my own words directly back to me.

Robin, those feelings that you're somehow not doing enough or being enough?  Those thoughts that you're not quite like the other girls, that you're not popular?  That you should write like someone else? 

They're lies from hell.

Child, I made you to be you.  I made you to be you for a specific reason, for a specific time, for a specific purpose.  Don't miss your calling because you're wondering whether you should live like, or speak like, or write like, or have results like someone else.

I want to cry and stomp and punch the air and dance and shout all at once, but instead, I hug my daughter, look her in the eyes, and reaffirm that God made her enough.  She doesn't need to be anyone else; she's exactly who she's supposed to be.

I want her to hear this at age seven.  I want to own it at age thirty-seven.  I want to proclaim it to whoever has ears to hear, no matter how many years they've walked this earth.

There's no time to clamor and compare myself with others.  There's no time to worry about what other people think.  There's no time to wonder if life would be better if I was handed another woman's circumstances, appearance, talent, platform, popularity, success, or calling.

There's just no time.

Instead, these wild, singular lives of ours can be spent wholeheartedly on the purposes that God has for us to complete, those good works He's prepared in advance for us to do, knowing that our paths won't look exactly like those walked by someone else.  For me, right now, it's raising my children, loving my husband, teaching my college students, befriending my neighbors, serving my church and community, and yes, even writing this everyday life blog.

I don't want my daughter to be tied up in knots inside because she's not like the other girls.  She's not supposed to be just like them; she's supposed to be like her.

And I'm supposed to be like me.  And you're supposed to be like you.

It's a lie that we're supposed to be like the other girls (whoever they are), and if we buy into this lie, it'll will discourage and distract us from our own mission.

I'm not accepting the lie.  I choose to be myself -- that simultaneously broken yet full self -- and let God handle the outcomes with His ability.

Because that's enough.  It's enough, it's enough, it's enough.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

The "Be Good To Myself" Day

After I was assigned my teaching schedule for the semester, I carefully considered when I'd hold my weekly office hours.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons were all fair game, I decided, but Friday?  No, not Friday.  I would guard my Friday afternoons and block off a segment of time that would remain just for me, just because.

I'm two weeks into this semester, and I'm already applauding this decision.  Last Friday, I left campus early after my classes, stopped in a store I don't regularly visit, and stumbled upon two wonderful wooden stools that are perfect replacements for the fraying vinyl ones we've used for years.

After classes today, I secluded myself in a corner of the library where green glass lamps rewind time and cast a scholarly glow, and then graded yesterday's quizzes.  I tell you, good work takes place in an environment like this.

I've earmarked Friday as the day to be good to myself, however that may look on that particular day.  Maybe it'll be a lunch out or an impromptu treat.  Maybe it'll come in the form of a cleaning spree or a window to finish a project that I couldn't complete if kids were home.  Maybe it'll be relaxed work in a coffee shop, not my office, or maybe I'll just take a nap.

Good to Myself Fridays.  I can get used to this.

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