A Life Stirred

howareyougood

We’ve got a problem.

Or more accurately, our fast-paced, always-on-the-go, constantly-over-stimulated culture has a problem.  (It probably has more than one problem, actually.)

We don’t really listen to each other anymore.  We ask our friends a question and then move on before they’ve even responded.

What?  You don’t think you do that?  I bet you do.  I bet you do without even thinking about it.

Case in point:  It’s Saturday night at church.  (Yes, I go to church on Saturday night.  So liberating for this night owl.)  As you make your way to your seat (the same one you sit in every week), you pass about 20 people you know, and you have the exact same conversation with every. single. one of them.  “Hi!  How are you?”  “Good. How are you?”  “Good.”  Conversation done.  Move on.

Talk about a riveting and meaningful conversation, right?

Have you ever tried to actually answer that question in a real way?  Just this weekend, a sweet lady at church asked how Claire was doing.  A very kind, thoughtful question.  I responded, “She’s good.  She has a cold right now, so it’s been a little rough lately.”

Except I wasn’t able to even get out that whole response before the sweet lady had moved on.  Two sentences, and I lost her after the first one.

See, the problem is she didn’t really want to hear the truth.  She wanted to oooh and aaaah over the adorable baby, hear that things were going well, and move on.

Wnd why wouldn’t you want to oooh and aaah over this adorable baby?!  (Yes, that is a Bible next to her...she's that advanced.)

And why wouldn’t you want to oooh and aaah over this adorable baby?!  I understand the temptation.

And really, I didn’t expect much more from the woman.  I’ve been guilty of the exact same thing.  This kind of conversation happens all the time.  We ask “How are you doing?”, but we don’t stop to listen to the response.

We don’t even expect a real response.  Because imagine if someone just dumped how they’re really doing on you after that question.  You’d probably smile and back away slowly.  Being really real is just not what we do in our culture.  We say “good” regardless of whether or not it’s true.

BUT God calls us, as Christians, to be different, to stand out.  They’ll know we are Christians by our love, right (John 13:35)?

What better way to show love than to care about how others are doing?!  I mean, I know I’d feel loved if you asked me how I doing and then waited for (and required) a real answer.  And I suspect you are probably the same way.

So, as this new week starts, why don’t we give listening a whirl?  Next time you ask someone how they’re doing, find out how they’re really doing.  Support them.  Encourage them.  Hey, you could even get real crazy and pray for them!  (Whaaaaat?!  Is that even allowed?!?  Yes.  It is.  Even if you’re in Walmart, blocking the chip aisle.)

It probably won’t be easy.  You’ll probably have to go through a round or two of howareyougood before you get to the real stuff.  You might even have to go with a “How are you really doing?” and a meaningful look and head tilt.  But it’ll be worth it.  And I suspect we’ll find that our friendships grow deeper and community is sweeter because we took the time to listen.

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Oh for the love of books!

If you’ve ever spent any time with toddlers, you know that some of them take their literary exposure very seriously.  They’ll bring you book after book (or bring you the same book over and over), plop down in your lap, and expect yet another rousing rendition of Goodnight Moon. ..which is a book for which the term “rousing” seems like a bit of an overstatement, even in the best of circumstances (and it’s definitely not “rousing” on the 2,527th time through).

This was cute when I worked in the church nursery and only had to read for limited amount of time.  <Insert desperate plea for nursery volunteers…go sign up now!>

But now I have my very own toddler.  And I love her a lot.  And she loves books a lot.  So I spend a lot of time reading books to her.  And even though we have shelves of books, she tends to gravitate towards the same books…over and over and over and over.

Gravity affects her book selection more than it affects her hair.  (Like how I subtly snuck in an adorable picture of Joanna?)

Gravity affects her book selection more than it affects her hair. (Like how I subtly snuck in an adorable picture of Joanna?)

So, I read them to her…over and over and over and over.

However, in order to keep myself interested (it’s a challenge, trust me), I find myself thinking up funny commentary.  Of course, my 19 month old could really care less about my hysterical comments.  She just wants to know if we’re going to have a successful bear hunt.  You, however, are going to get a glimpse into my mind.

I hope you enjoy.  Humor is one of the things that stir my affections for the Lord, so this is more than just a random, silly post (though it is that too).  I mean, seriously, how cool is it that God gave us a sense of humor?!  And that laughter and smiles are universal throughout the world?!  So awesome.

Here’s we go.  We’ll start with a classic: The Very Hungry Catepillar by Eric Carle.  A timeless tale of a young caterpillar who was very hungry.

This page always makes me hungry.  Seriously, Eric Carle?!  Cake?  Ice cream?  Cupcakes?  That’s just not very nice.

This page always makes me hungry. Seriously, Eric Carle?!  Why do you hate me? Cake? Ice cream? Cupcakes? That’s just not very nice.

I’m pretty sure this page is a shameless plug for vegetables.  One green leaf took away the stomachache?  Suuuure, it did…

I’m pretty sure this page is a shameless plug for vegetables. One green leaf took away the stomachache? Suuuure, it did…

Next up, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury.  Once I figured out how to make the snowstorm noise (“Hoooooo Woooooo.  Hooooo Woooo”), this book has been pretty fun.

I’m pretty sure the dad is thinking about all the laundry that’s going to be created by going through the “thick, oozy mud”.

I’m pretty sure the dad is thinking about all the laundry that’s going to be created by going through the “thick, oozy mud”.

Is it just me or does the bear look a little dejected?  Maybe he didn’t want to eat the family.  Maybe he was just looking for a friend, and they all ran away.  Now that’s a blow to the ego.

Is it just me or does the bear look a little dejected? Maybe he didn’t want to eat the family. Maybe he was just looking for a friend, and they all ran away. Now that’s a blow to the ego.

Now I’ve saved the best for last, Giggle Giggle Quack by Doreen Cronin.  This is Joanna’s all-time favorite!  She loves Duck more than she loves me (that may not be true…but she loves Duck a lot).  And why not?  He’s pretty fantastic.

How can you not love a guy (duck?) who takes time to sharpen his pencil?   Seriously, though, I love this picture.  Because if you did choose to sharpen a pencil while holding it in your mouth, you would vibrate all around.

How can you not love a guy (duck?) who takes time to sharpen his pencil? Seriously, though, I love this picture. Because if you did choose to sharpen a pencil while holding it in your mouth, you would vibrate all around. (Also, Bob looks like my dad…)

So, for all you moms out there, who are reading the same books over and over, I highly recommend finding things in the book that make you smile.  It makes it a lot more enjoyable.  Although, instilling a love of reading in your toddler is pretty awesome too.

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Angles

It seems like everywhere I turn someone is talking about being real. Be authentic. Be real. Let other people see your messiness. It’s on blogs. It’s in church. It’s at small group. And I absolutely agree that we should be real/authentic/messy.

BUT we have a social media world where the realness is very easily angled out of the picture. Take this picture, for example.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

It’s a seemingly benign picture of my daughter coloring on our kitchen floor.  It’d be super easy to post this picture on my facebook wall, and tell all my friends how Joanna spent 45 minutes entertaining herself like this while I made a delicious, home cooked dinner.

It would be a true post, but it wouldn’t be a real post.  It would only show you part of that moment.

Yes, Joanna colored on the floor for 45 minutes, and yes, I made dinner.  But that’s not the whole story.

Let’s change the angle a little.

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

As you can see, she dumped out all her toys and all the paper recycling before I resorted to crayons.  The scene behind her looks more like a tornado hit our kitchen than a peaceful, artistic moment.  Meanwhile, that delicious, homemade dinner?  Sandwiches.  Delicious, sure.  Homemade, yeah.  Difficult and impressive, not really.

Let’s change the angle a little more.  Let’s capture what a camera can’t.

After a crummy night of sleep (Jo decided it’d be fun to be awake from 3 to 7), we are all a little crabby and edgy.  I was tired and grumpy.  We had to miss the first MOPS of the year so we could try to get a little more sleep.  A doctor’s appointment revealed that Joanna had an ear infection.  She took a late, late nap and woke up so crabby that only a little TV, juice, and a giant snack could appease her.  This sweet moment that I photographed was one bright spot in a relatively frustrating day.

So, my challenge to you?  It’s two-fold.  First, if you want to be real, let your angles be real.  Show that mess in the background.  Don’t deliberately push out the ugliness of our lives.  [I’m not saying every post and status update needs to show your mess, but let’s not worry if it does.]  Second, remember that those moments that fill your newsfeed are just that: moments.  They are small glimpses into someone else’s day.  And generally, we have no idea what we’d see if we widened the angle a little.

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Heights, Grapes, and People

I used to believe that I didn’t struggle with fear.

Heights don’t freak me out. In fact, I actually kind of enjoy them.

Proof: Those are my feet.

Proof: Those are my feet.

I don’t love spiders, but who really does?  I can remain calm and squish ‘em with a shoe, no problem! (Earwigs are a different story…EEeeeewwww!)

I don’t necessarily sign up for public speaking, but when the opportunity arises, I can handle it (I only get a little sweaty).

And I can look at this picture without panicking:

I was in a small group where we read Fearless by Max Lucado.  We spent nearly every week discussing the fear of small children and grapes.

I was in a small group where we read Fearless by Max Lucado. We spent nearly every week discussing the fear of small children and grapes.

But it turns out I do struggle with fear.  It’s just not a very obvious fear, and I hide it pretty well.

I have a fear of man.

Yup, I care waaaaay too much about what people think about me.

Case in point: this blog.  I wrote my first entry on Thursday, and I posted it that night.  I went to bed confident that this was going to be fun and that I could be part of the blog world.  I woke up on Friday morning convinced that I had nothing to offer, that I’d be a big-blog-flop, and that everyone would think I was ridiculous for thinking I could do this.

So, what happened between Thursday night and Friday morning?

Well, other than spending 3am to 7am with my awake-for-no-reason toddler, nothing!  I just allowed myself to give into fear of what others’ think.

This fear is deeply rooted (thankyouverymuch, 6th-8th grade and my pride), and it holds me back.  It holds me back from being true to myself.  It holds me back from sharing my faith.  It holds me back from admitting that I don’t have it all together.  It holds me back from putting myself out there.  It sometimes even holds me back from just sitting and enjoying my kiddos.

I don’t want this fear to rule my life.  I want to be bold.  I want to take risks for the Lord.  Heck, I just want to do what He asks me to without being afraid of what people think of me.  I want to live a Radical life.  (Aaah!  Such a good book.  Read it now.  Like right now.  Go.)  I have such a long way to go.

But with the Lord’s help, I’m taking steps towards freedom.  I’m putting myself out there (a little) by being real and honest on this blog.  I’m taking a deep breath and inviting my facebook friends to read here as well.  And let’s be real, that basically includes everyone I know.  <gulp>  It is my prayer that stepping out of my comfort zone will decrease my fear and increase my faith!

What about you?  What are you afraid of?  And how has the Lord worked to bring you freedom?

[In writing this, I realized I also struggle with the Fear of Failure.  It’s closely related to the Fear of Man.  Like Fear Cousins.  But more on that later…maybe.]

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I’m an insta-writer!

I’ve done a little research, and it looks like everyone has a blog.  Yup, everyone.  Not exaggerating.

I decided I want one too.  I want to be one of the cool kids!  Heck, I used to have aspirations to be a writer (or a stand-up comedian…I was undecided).  I would write unfinished story after unfinished story, and my journal entries back then were hilarious (although that was mostly because my 7th grade brain was hilarious….or ridiculous).

So, what could be better than having a blog?!  Insta-writer!  All I have to do think of something wonderful and deep and meaningful, hit publish, and WA-BAAAM!  I’m a published writer.  And before I know it, people will be sharing my posts, quoting my delightful insights, LOL-ing loudly (is that redundant?) in public places, and I’ll be a blogging superstar!

Or maybe I’ll just share my thoughts and my heart.  Maybe I’ll just tell my story (that post will make anyone want a blog…seriously).  Maybe I’ll be really real, even when I’d really rather not.

And if you are encouraged along the way, or if you LOL loudly (redundant or not, I’m going with it), or if your affections are stirred towards the Lord, then that’s just icing on the blogging cake!

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