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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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 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.


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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What to Expect While Vacationing at Disney World with Kids

If your family ever vacations at Disney World, whether it's your first visit or a favorite destination, the trip will be steeped in expectations.  Obviously, you'll expect adventure and fun -- and hopefully good weather and good health during the trip.  You'll expect crowds and lines.  You'll expect parades and princesses, rides and roller coasters, sights and shows.  You'll expect pictures, memories, and probably a few souvenirs.

These expectations are all givens.  Today, however, I'm here to share some lesser-discussed things you should expect when traveling to Disney -- observations that might not make a brochure, but tried and true ones nonetheless.

Expect odd text message sequences.  During your time in the parks, you will send an inordinate number of text messages to your spouse, most of which will be devoted to asking and answering the question, "Where are you?"  Looking back you'll realize that nearly all of these messages would be incomprehensible without the proper context:

Had to walk to China to use the restroom. 
Waiting for pirates. 
Villains parking. 135 Scar!

Expect germs.  Your kids will touch surfaces that thousand of other people have touched -- tables, rides, railings -- and no matter how frequently or persuasively you urge them not to put their hands in or near their mouths, they will.  You'll badger and cringe and distribute hand sanitizer, but at some point, you'll simply hang your head and think, "Just go ahead.  Just lick the ground now, too."

Of course, you won't verbalize this because you know that at least one of your kids might take you up on the suggestion.

Expect collisions.  As if they want to get trampled, your kids will suddenly stop walking the moment they step directly in front of you.  Repeatedly.  If you're observant, you'll witness the near-trampling of several other children who aren't your offspring when they stop walking directly in front of their own parents.  You'll feel a little badly, but then you'll quietly chuckle.  And probably trip on your own child again.

Expect at least one moment of panic.  At some point you might be walking along with the crowds and realize that you're missing a kid, a realization that causes your heart to pound, senses to heighten, and search and rescue skills to kick into overdrive.  Typically, you'll find them just a few paces behind in an entirely innocuous activity, like tying their shoe, gazing at the castle, or wandering toward an ice cream cart.  Because you're used to your kids being directly in front of you (see above), this will throw you for a moment.

To combat this, you'll obsessively count heads -- one, two, three, got 'em.  You'll even count other people's children for them.  You're welcome.

Expect fashion highs and lows.  Despite the fact that you're gallivanting with princesses and posing for pictures on a much greater frequency than normal life, you will look (or at least feel) slightly disheveled at all times.  You will look at other parents, commiserating with their overstuffed backpacks and the child propped on their hip who, like a true toddler, keeps messing with their hair.

In light of this, you never will understand how some women are walking around in heels.

Expect sugar.  Even while adhering to some modicum of good sense and parental responsibility, you will let your children eat what they normally wouldn't.


Expect high mileage.  The sugar will be okay because you'll walk at least ten miles daily.  If you stay at Disney for awhile, it's like doing half marathons repetitively over sequential days -- just half marathons that take twelve hours to complete and are paused for parades, meals, and greeting people wearing animal costumes.

Expect tears.  Tears in Disney?  These are inevitable.  And that's just on your behalf.  Your kids might even momentarily melt down along the way, too.

Expect magic. You know it sounds cliche, but you'll watch your children's eyes widen and you'll suck in your breath from time to time and realize, "This really is special."  You'll think of Walt Disney's quote, "I don't want the public to see the world they live in when they're in the park.  I want them to feel they're in another world."

Nailed it, Walt.  You nailed it.

Have you ever been to Disney?  What else would you add to the list?

Image adapted from Brian Williams.
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The journey of a thousand miles begins with a child asking, "Are we there yet?"

This year in particular, I'm welcoming the start of a new year.  I feel my soul crying out for the fresh start, the clean slate, the wide-open expanses of empty calendar pages.  I feel it when I walk around my house, now stripped of its holiday decoration, and bask in the simplicity and clarity.

I need a new year.  There's promise in a new year.

Not that the past year was bad, mind you.  As part of my husband's work, our family wrapped up 2015 by traveling from Pennsylvania to Florida, which is why I know, quite literally, that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a child asking, "Are we there yet?"

That was a long drive.  Ditto for the return trip.

Our time in Florida was characterized by many things, among them unseasonably warm weather,  swimming, hotel rooms, and the accumulation of excessive amounts of dirty laundry.  Once Joel finished his work responsibilities, we then spent a few days in Orlando at Disney, which, at the risk of sounding cliche, was magical.

It was an adventure: walking the beach in winter, cavorting with princesses by day, watching fireworks by night.  It was entirely out-of-the-norm in the most wonderful way.

And yet, as the miles racked up on our way back north, my excitement for home grew.  I was ready to reestablish a routine, hear the familiar sounds of my own house at night, and reunite with my washer and dryer.  Even more, I was excited for some mindful prayer and planning for the upcoming year.  (Disney is many special things, but a place of quiet reflection it is not.)

We've been home for nearly three days now.  The bags are unpacked, the laundry has been tamed, and the spring semester already has started.  Normal life is back.  I suspect that these days could unfurl ahead of me too quickly, too routinely, and I don't want to miss the bigger picture.  If this new year is like a long journey -- a thousand-miler, so to speak -- then I want to plan my adventure wisely.

Am I there yet?  Not quite.  But I imagine it's going to be a great trip.

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