Delete Those Messages

Over the past few weeks my family has been working through routine Winter illnesses leaving me feeling exhausted and slightly guilty. Literal days have been spent lounging on the couch- household maintenance shoved aside to make room for blankets, pillows and countless movies. How can a person be more tired after having laid around for a week? But thats just it: I’ve felt the need to recharge and figure out why I have these nagging thoughts of not being a good enough mother.

Have you ever noticed the barrage of messages assailing us everyday? I’m not just talking about the obvious TV or Hulu commercials constantly telling us of things we ‘need’- but messages we tell ourselves or that well meaning people preach. Some examples that have come to my mind:

I need to be a productive member of society: busy and bettering myself. But, I also need to slow down: take in creation, soak in every second of life. I need to make money: advance in a career and provide for my family. But, I also need to find my passion, not get caught up in the hamster wheel and not care so much about material things. Oh and I’m staying home with my kids right now so…there’s a conundrum.

Spiritually speaking, I’m often reading books that tell me I need to implement some habit or some three step process to get more holy. Pressures to change- become a better version of the current me. I’ll be happier…and more productive…I’m sure you can think of many pressures and messages you receive in your sphere of life. Right? It can’t just be me!

You should be married already. You should have your life together.  You should have children by now. You should stop having those babies. You should sleep more. You should sleep less. Lose weight. Gain muscle. Homeschool. Join another ministry. Just get off the couch already…You get the picture. Millions of other well intentioned and sometimes not so well intentioned messages.

I apologize if I’ve ever generated those sentiments here in this blog! (I’m sure I have a 5 step process for something somewhere around here… 😉 )

I think what was bothering me specifically the past few weeks was the fact that my kids consumed more television than was healthy.  I’ve read the articles- television rots their brains and makes them crabby. I’ve done the TV fasts and had lots of boundaries…blah blah blah but yet I was having a hard time extending grace to myself.

What a waste of time and energy! I’ve had to take a step back and find the forest through the trees. What is really important? Who should I be listening to?

The truth is: so many of these debates and questions are peripheral. God has made us diverse and varied. We all have different gifts, callings, preferences, challenges, mistakes and consciences. We need- I need- to rest in Christ alone- listen to Christ alone. He is wisdom.  He is strong in my weakness. He is strong in yours if you give your failings to Him. We’re all in process and none of us has arrived. My life looks different than yours- and that is good.

Its been such relief to let out a big sigh. Tomorrow is fresh. He has given us enough grace for today. And I know what I’m called to do today: love my kids, love my man, spread forgiveness, extend grace. I need to share the gospel with my kids by modeling it to myself and to them. There! I have my list of essential things to do today. Oh, and eat. Ya’ll know I love food.

Worrying about laundry, TV and bettering myself don’t make the list today- and that’s freedom.laceypic

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In which I talk about Spheres and Cycles

IMG_20150102_232537Its hard to believe that the last time I posted here was in October of 2014. Craziness. Thank you for continuing to read and support my husband, Jonathan, as he wrote for me for about a month. That was totally cool to me how he stepped up and ya’ll seemed to love it. I think the world could do with a little more of the man’s perspective when it comes to the birthing process…and lots of other things for that matter.

On this fine late morning it is cloudy and cool here in my great state of Oregon. On my latest walk I spied green buds forming on the tips of seemingly dead branches- signs that Spring is almost here. The crocuses are pricking up from the flower beds and the days are minute by minute extending their rays. It can be a chore but I’m working on embracing these cloudy, foggy days of winter. Everything has its cycle and process- just because it is gray and cold doesn’t make it bad- just challenging.

You could say I’m learning to embrace the cycles of all the parts of my life- not just the weather!

In order for me to have and enjoy the sunny, high energy days of productivity and creativity I must also put in my time planting the seeds. My seeds are best planted on slow, unhurried days at home. Days spent instructing my kids, reading, enjoying the small things and praying more often.

In order to endure through days of darkness- both mentally and physically- I must plant the seeds of fitness, routine and acceptance to get to the other side. I have to have truth spoken to me faithfully- through reading, my husband and my church. I need to know I’m loved deeply and wholly despite my weaknesses. I have to remember what God has done for me and how Great He is.

When thinking about cycles I always end up thinking about spheres. There is an upside and downside depending on whatever part of the sphere you are currently on. All that is needed, though, is a  change of perspective. Suddenly when you feel yourself on a downward trend you find that it isn’t all that bad. Or perhaps it really is terrible but you know if you keep persevering you’ll get to the other side of the cycle. I’m unsure if this is making sense but its fun to think about.
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Anyway, I’m excited for this new year- 2015. I have a few posts planned already and a couple half written. A goal for this year is to attend a writing workshop- so I’m pretty excited about that! A lot of you have been asking about my NaNoWriMo project so here is a quick update:

~ I entitled my book: In Search of Mother. It is a multigenerational story about three women who are wrestling with common demons. Each woman has her unique perspective and story but all are insecure in their journey into motherhood. I topped out at about 50,100 words, which- as a lot of you know- isn’t quite long enough to be an actual book. It needs much work and I haven’t begun to edit it yet. Once I go through it at least once I’ll be happy to share with individuals who would like to give me some feedback.~

Ok, so, I’d love to hear from you! Have you come up with any goals for 2015? What is God teaching you so far this year? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thanks again for all your support! 🙂

Fun with Labels

i-m-with-stupid-t-shirt-white-american-apparel_designThis past election season, Oregon citizens voted on a proposition that sought to require additional labeling on food products that contained GMOs. The proposition was defeated, but only by a difference of .2% (that’s close enough for an automatic recount).

Now, without having done my research on the issue, I really don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other on GMO labels, but this desire for additional labeling reminded me of something.

Labels sure are a funny thing.

We use labels to quickly and easily identify items in our world. We use physical labels to help us quickly find things like a file in a filing cabinet, or to keep us from accidentally pouring salt into our coffee instead of sugar.

Our brains love labels too. Labels allow us to take mental shortcuts that make it easier to associate similar items, categorize those items into groups, and make pretty piles of information to access at lightning speed. If I ask you to think of 10 things that are yellow, your brain will flood your thoughts with all kinds of things that you’ve identified as yellow.

Another benefit of labels is that, in addition to helping us associate items that are similar, they also help us identify differences. For example, while you were trying to think of 10 yellow things, you probably also thought of some items that were green, blue, or red, but your brain discarded them because you have already labeled them under their own colors. You were able to think about things that are yellow because your brain was simultaneously thinking about things that were not yellow.

For the most part, labels are a useful and beneficial tool, except when it comes to people.

I remember a time, not too long ago, when labeling people was a bad thing. With the rise of globalization and the world wide web, we began to realize that there’s a lot more that makes us similar than there is that makes us different. We wanted to get rid of labels.

People wanted to be “color-blind,” not noticing the differences in our skin or ethnicity.

Churches added “non-denominational” to their names.

That seemed to work, for a while.

Now, I‘m probably could be wrong, but if you were to ask me when the pendulum started swinging back the other way, I’d say it started with the advent of social networks.

Social networks allowed us to do what humans have been doing for thousands of years, while also allowing us to do something that we have never before been able to do…

For thousands of years, humans have gathered in tribal units, but those tribal units have always been limited to the boundaries of geography. With social networks, internet users could once again group themselves into smaller tribes, but now they could form tribes with anyone anywhere, AND they could be part of multiple tribes at the same time.

What does this look like?

It means that if you like Harry Potter books, you can go online and make friends with other internet users who also love Harry Potter books. You can talk about whether you’d be a Hufflepuff or a Gryffindor, or how much you hate Delores Umbridge. Maybe every Thursday morning you all chat about your love of all things Harry Potter.

In addition to liking Harry Potter books, maybe you also like to watch New Girl, starring the adork-able Zooey Deschanel. So, you jump online, and sure enough, there are thousands of fans of New Girl for you to make friends with. You talk about the cute outfits Jess wears, or share your favorite Schmitt quotes. Maybe after Tuesday night episodes, you all chat to recap your thoughts.

If the internet has taught me anything, it’s that you can find a tribe for just about any interest, no matter how niche you may think it is. Have you ever heard of a Brony? It’s a thriving community of adult male fans of My Little Pony, a show for pre-teen girls about ponies.

 

With all of these fragmented tribes and increasingly niche interests, it seems that labels have once again become useful and important. A quick way to identify yourself to others who may have similar interests, however narrow, to your own.

This hyper-specificity of interest has also spilled over to our conversations about gender identity. Earlier this year, Facebook had over 50 different options you could select for your gender, including agender, androgynous, cismale or cisfemale, transmasculine or transfeminine and many more. As of today, Facebook has opted to just leave the gender field open to whatever you feel like typing in there.

What’s interesting to me is that with all of this freedom to choose whatever labels we want for ourselves, I’m also seeing more and more arguments that involve the liberal usage of some old and familiar labels to identify others.

“Sexist.”

“Racist.”

“Bigot.”

I can’t confirm this, but it would appear to me that there’s a positive correlation between our collective hyper-specificity and our hyper-sensitivity. We’re using labels to quickly and easily identify the people who are different than us, but those labels also bring with them a host of stereotypes that create ugly divisions.

Us vs Them.

Everywhere I look, I see lines being drawn in the sand over the things that make us different.

If you voted for Barack Obama, then you’re a lazy socialist looking for government handouts and redistribution of wealth.

If you call yourself a Republican, you’re a gun-toting backwoods hillbilly willing to shoot any black kid who walks on your street.

The list goes on.

I’m all for labels that help bring people together. Heck, I’m still looking for members to join my group of “Breaking Bad Fans Who Didn’t Enjoy Battlestar Galactica but Know the Lyrics to Just About Every Katy Perry Song” (Facebook page pending).

My concern is that too often we’re using labels to dismiss people before truly getting to know them. When used incorrectly, labels only serve to cloud our vision and understanding of the human being on the other side of the screen.

We’ve gone a bit label-crazy.

Diversity-Day-the-office-492629_796_496

The Office, NBC

 

At church, we’ve been going through the book of Galatians, and I find it especially encouraging and important to remember chapter 3, verses 26-28:

 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

At the most basic level, I think it’s safe to apply this verse to how we talk to and treat each other. The differences won’t automatically disappear, but we should be the first to actively demonstrate that someone’s value is neither increased nor diminished based on the labels we use to identify them.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but think about your initial feelings about people who have a strong opinion (opposing your own) on some of the following issues:

Abortion. Vaccinations. Immigration. Gun laws. Attachment parenting. Minimum wage. LGBT rights. Universal healthcare. Religious freedom.

The events in Ferguson, MO offer a perfect example of just how complicated, but utterly important, this is. Over the next few weeks, as you have conversations with each other, try to take a few extra minutes to hear without using labels. Find out why someone believes differently than you, rather than jumping to a conclusion and arguing past the person. You might be surprised at what you find.

We can be better. We should be better.

Will we be better?