Come Alive!

alive quote

 

 

set the world on fire

 

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Dislike.

What’s the point of Facebook anyway? It’s just a giant sounding board where people either brag about how awesome they are, or how crappy their lives are, or simultaneously do both at the same time. Seriously. I don’t know why I still have one. Or even why I ever had one.

I recently whittled my friends list down to people I actually was friends with at some point in time. I thought that would help this icky feeling. I was never friends with people I didn’t know at all, but I did have a lot of very casual acquaintances on there, as I assume most people probably do. But, truthfully, at this point in my life, I don’t even know most of the people that made the cut either. I certainly never talk to them other than Facebook. That doesn’t seem to quite qualify as a friendship. But maybe I’m just being cynical…

Really though, why does anyone have a facebook? Do we all think we’re so important that world would be lacking in someway if there was no log of where I checked in for dinner or my witty opinion of some commercial I just saw for the first time? Does it really matter if people I don’t ever talk to see my most recent vacation pictures or how cute Jack is while he’s sleeping? Do people really care who I voted for on American Idol or that I’m playing tetris to kill time instead of doing the laundry? Of course not. This information about my life can’t possibly enrich your day. Similar information about your life certainly doesn’t enrich mine. So why do I feel the need to compulsively log on, read my entire news feed up to the point where I last left off, and, perhaps, even share one of the above mentioned details from my life? I truly have no idea. I have no idea what could possibly be so compelling about that.

Does Facebook give us all some false sense of security? Some sense that our lives do actually have meaning? A sense of unity and connectedness to all 785 people we’re friends with? Evidence that we’re not floating around on this planet alone? I mean people wouldn’t comment if they didn’t care, right? Or maybe we’re all just so bored with whatever is going on around us that we’re desperate for the next hilarious YouTube video, life changing blog post, or sweet comment from someone we haven’t seen since 7th grade?

Ok. It’s obvious. I’m a little cynical…or at the very least a little negative…about this whole concept for some reason. I don’t know why. Just like I don’t know why I’m on Facebook. Maybe that’s what bothers me. That I’m so consumed by something as nonsensical as a newsfeed full of usseless information that’s likely only posted as some vain attempt to keep up with the Joneses. I would like to think my life has more substance than that. But my actions clearly indicate otherwise. Maybe that’s why I’m so cranky about it all. Because I don’t like who it implies that I have become.

So why can’t I just log off? Why can’t I just click that little button that deactivates my account? Am I really that afraid that without my connection to Facebook I will have no connection to these people who were once such a huge part of my life?

Yeah.

I guess I am.

I guess I know that, when I click deactivate, all those people and all those memories that were once such a huge part of my life will no longer exist in a very real way.

Despite the fact that they haven’t been a part of my life for a very long time now, that somehow makes it more real. I guess that’s hard to deal with. I guess that’s why I’ve grown such a disdain for Facebook in general. For me, it’s a very real representation of one of the harder parts of growing up and moving on.
Hmm. That’s a little sad. Having to be faced with the reality that people and circumstances that were once of the utmost importance to me just aren’t anymore… Well… I just don’t know what to say about that. Who knew that my little rant about Facbook would end up revealing something real about me.

 

 

Celebrate Family. Celebrate Life.

Andy and Jack. Summer 2009

Andy and Jack. Summer 2009

I spent a lot of time yesterday discussing the Tebow Superbowl Ad. Maybe it was the hormones. Maybe it was because Josh was working OT again. Maybe it was because I had a long day and didn’t have the energy to do much else besides sit with the computer. Maybe someone will benefit from what I had to say. Whatever the reason, I stand behind what I said. The thing that bothers me is I spent too much time reacting in frustration instead of talking about what’s really important. I spent too much time feeding into the drama and not enough time elaborating on the intended theme of the ad, Celebrate family. Celebrate life.

Both children and family are huge blessings and most definitely huge reason for celebration. Ask any woman who is desperately trying to conceive a child. Children are not burdens and I don’t know when they became such in the eyes of our society. Children are a gift. Children may mean you take one less vacation or you make decisions regarding your career or you closet that you wouldn’t have made before having them, but since when are we afraid to sacrifice for something worthwhile? Unlike what Ms. Gettelman said, this is not “losing your future.”

Children bless and enhance your life in the way that no career, vacation or shopping spree ever could. Having a family is the most fulfilling decision you can ever make. Yes, you will have hard days…a lot of them. There used to be a time when we understood that anything worth having was worth fighting for. What happened to us? Now, we want everything handed to us in the most convenient fashion as quickly as possible. I don’t know who set us up to expect that, but they did us a great disservice. As Dacia Wiegandt often says,

“The reason most people fail instead of succeed is that they trade what they want most for what they want at the moment.”

What do you want most in life? If children and family is on your list, I highly recommend you stop putting it off until you reach a certain point in your career, until your bank account reaches a certain balance, or until whatever else you’re waiting for. First of all, even when you reach those goals, something new will pop up. Like Joanne Bertalan always reminds me, “there’s a new devil at every level.” Looking into the future, you can’t truly comprehend or predict what your life will be like when you reach goal x, y or z. Secondly, once you have a child, your priorities will probably shift anyway. Why waste so much time building a life that you may or may not want once you are fortunate enough to have a family of your own? Again, this is not “loosing your future.” This is maturing and seeing the world from a whole new perspective.

I speak from experience when I tell you that when you openly and lovingly accept a child or children, you will be provided for. It may not be in the fashion you initially expect, but you and your family will have every need met. See what we are told in Matthew 6: 25-34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.

But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’

All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Andy's Birth Day. December 2005.

Andy’s Birth Day. December 2005.

I can tell you, God is faithful to His word. One could say I found myself in a “crisis pregnancy.” At the very least it was unexpected, unplanned and inconvenient. And believe me, more than one person suggested I “terminate” it. I am so grateful that I was raised to know better and received enough emotional support from those around me to keep from feeling forced into that decision. Let me note, when I say support, I don’t mean the people around me were thrilled or even happy. I lost a lot of “friends” over the decision to carry my child to term and raise him myself. But let me tell you, neither he nor I wanted for anything during that pregnancy or even now. God provided us with everything we needed.

People I’ve never met sent me hand-me-downs. My grandmother bought us a stroller. Some friends threw me a shower. A woman at church made me this awesome basket of stuff she knew I would have never thought to buy in advance like a thermometer, diaper rash cream and gas drops. Josh was offered a new job, albeit not the job we “wanted” nor one he liked, but the one that provided us with enough income to support our little family. I had everything I needed to take care of that baby because I trusted in the Lord. Actually, that is a huge overstatement. At that point in my life the best I could do was say “Ok, I’m having this baby. Please help us.” My definition of trusting in the Lord has definitely matured since then, but God provided for us anyway.

I can assure you no other “accomplishment” in this life compares with being handed your child for the first time in the delivery room. No other “success” compares with watching your child achieve a new skill or make a good decision on his own. No other “recognition” feels as good as little arms around your neck and a little voice telling you “Mama, I love you so much!” Children are a great gift, the most rewarding “job” that has ever existed. It’s so sad to see the way our country throws them away and devalues them to nothing more than a burden.

A Piece of Our Story

ourstoryAs I was praying for a friend in the shower this morning (Yes, in the shower. When you’re a mom its one of the only times you can actually have a complete thought or form a coherent prayer.) I was moved to share the following story with her. As I typed it out on her facebook wall (It was in response to something she previously posted. I promise I don’t just go around giving random bits of personal advice on facebook. :) ) it occurred to me that there are probably many other people our age in similar situations who may also benefit from hearing this piece of our story. I gave her the condensed version, but here’s the whole story.

Shortly after Andy was born, Josh and I moved to the Dallas area to be closer to my family. As a new mom, I was terrified and was sure I was going to need lots of help from my own mother. After living here for about a year, both Josh and I were extremely homesick for Memphis. We missed our friends. We missed the culture. We missed our Tigers. We definitely missed the BBQ. (Texas aint got nothin’ on Memphis BBQ!) Around the same time, Josh had the opportunity to apply for a promotion that would move us back to Memphis! It was meant to be, right? Well, that’s what we thought…or at least really wanted to believe. Needless to say, he got the promotion (He’s so amazing!), we packed our stuff and headed home.

Never once during the whole application/interviewing/moving process did we ask God if He wanted us in Memphis. We prayed for Josh to perform well at his interview. We asked for safety during the trip. We prayed for the people who were kind enough to help us move. But, like I said, we never prayed about whether this decision was in line with the Lord’s plan for our lives.

We spent the next few years in Memphis, loving being amidst our friends, the culture, our alma mater, and enjoying the delicious Mississippi Delta cuisine. Naturally, we grew as people, our marriage grew, and our faith grew during that time as well. As our faith grew, we learned that we are not called to act and then pray for the Lord’s blessings, rather to pray for discernment of the Lord’s will and then act. That’s what we started doing. We started asking the Lord to show us His will for us. We prayed that our actions would be in unison with His plan and for His glory. Boy, we had no idea what a can of worms we were opening.

We started praying to live our lives in unison with the Lord’s will for our life in October 2008. That same month Josh suffered his first pay cut at work as a result of the economy. Another followed in December. By April 2009 Josh’s job had become extinct. Saying that I was scared is an understatement, but it was a strange fear. Because of my faith, I knew that everything would be ok. It was most definitely a stressful time, but the Lord provided for us in the most surprising ways.

Midway through our time of unemployment and just as our personal savings was running out, we received the largest check I have ever personally held in my hand in the mail. My grandmother had sold her house to move into a condo. Because she didn’t need the money and the grandchildren aren’t included in her will, she divided her profit after purchasing her condo among her grandchildren. I will NEVER forget opening that envelope. Or the amazement that followed the days after. She hoped we would put it toward a down payment on our house, but I’m sure she wouldn’t be disappointed to know that her great-grandchildren survived from that money.

In August 2009 Josh heard from an old supervisor. He said if Josh was still in the market for a job he needed to act now. The following week Fidelity in Westlake was having a hiring event. Obviously, Josh wasted no time resubmitting his resumé. He had a phone interview the next day. He was asked to come to Dallas the next week. The day after he interviewed, he was offered the position. Praise the Lord! After months of unemployment, dead-end leads, constant job searching (by this point we had resumes out in multiple states), we were THRILLED to have a job offer. I, however, was not so thrilled about moving back to Texas.

There’s nothing wrong with Texas. In fact, now that I’ve gotten to know it better, I really like Texas. But all I could think about was how homesick we were before. As you can tell, things we’re happening fast. Josh was scheduled to start his job in just two weeks. We had to pack, plan a move, find a place to live, etc, etc, etc. I put it all in the hands of the Lord. I was completely overwhelmed and knew there was no way I could make everything happen in just two weeks. I’ll spare you the details, but let me just say the way everything came together was nothing short of miraculous.

So here we are, right where we started. Working for the same company at the same location. What’s different is this time we know it’s right. We know God wants us here. We don’t know why, but we are confident that this is exactly where we are supposed to be. Oh, and remember that check from my grandmother? We spent the last penny of it the day before Josh’s first pay day. Coincidence? I think not. :)

Moral of the story: Ask God what His will is for your life and make your decisions accordingly. It’s much easier and cheaper in the long run if you just do it right the first time.

Russian Roulette

Despite the arrogance of my last post, it really does hurt to watch people I care about suffer. I get so angry with them because I honestly believe they choose to be in the situations they’re festering in. Nevertheless, it breaks my heart to watch them slowly and almost systematically destroy their lives. Believe it or not, that is not an overstatement. People seem to have so little comprehension of the fact that the choices they make today will most definitely affect the rest of their lives. At the very least, every choice has the potential to do that.

Lately, I feel as if I’m the one who’s trapped. Trapped in some viewing room watching people I love slowly torture themselves. And, somehow, they don’t even seem to realize they’re doing it. How is it possible to sabotage your own future and not see what you’re doing to yourself? How is it possible to be so blind to your own situation that you can’t hear the truth that a trusted friend tries to share with you? How is it possible that when I reach out to try and help, all they see is someone who “acts older than she should,” someone who just needs to “lighten up?”

There was definitely a time when I was “lighter.” A time when I too made insanely stupid choices. But, you’d be a fool to assume that I would go back to that time if given the opportunity. I have no idea how I managed to escape primarily unscathed. Don’t think for a second that I don’t realize how lucky I am to merely have a few emotional scars from that period of my life. I just don’t understand how so many can be so blind. Sometimes it feels like everyone around me is playing Russian Roulette with their lives. I pray everyday that they also emerge unharmed, but the thought of what that chamber could hold terrifies me.

And What Are You Doing to Resolve This?

fix itSo often these days, as I sit and listen to my friends complain about their problems, whether they be personal, financial, work-related, whatever, I just want to scream, “STOP!” I just feel like if these people would spend even a fraction of the time they spend complaining praying about the issue at hand, they would feel so much better, have so much more direction, and not get so overwhelmed by petty things. I don’t say that to be mean. Of course, I have no problem being a sounding board for my friends. It’s not healthy to keep things bottled up. But, when they have the same problems week after week, month after month, it just gets a little ridiculous. Prayer aside, I want to ask them, “What are you doing to resolve this issue?” But I’ve learned that response doesn’t go over very well. I just can’t stand to sit, trapped, listening to a never-ending “woe is me” rant that has absolutely no direction…and that I’ll inevitably be hearing again in just a matter of days or weeks. (Brace yourself for the smug sarcasm that follows.)

“So, Frank, you feel like your life has no direction and you’re not where you expected to be by your late 20s? Well, what are you doing to resolve that?” Frank (who doesn’t exist, by the way) would look at me like I had two heads. Why on earth would he make an attempt to seek out direction in his life when he could just spend every night of his life going to the same bar he’s been going to for years or getting stoned with a bunch of people who also have no direction in life.

“Julie (still not a real person), you’re frustrated because none of the guys you date take you seriously? What are you doing to resolve that?” Again, I’m talking like a crazy person. How could the fact that she dresses like a slut and is incapable of spending an evening sober possibly have anything to do with the type of men she’s attracting? Surely wealthy men with advanced educations and fast growing careers are just dying to get into a relationship and consider spending their life with someone who is advertising herself to be a shallow, insecure, freak who will do anything you want on the first night you meet her. “No, Suzie, I can’t imagine why he didn’t invite you to his office party. Oh, you found out he took his girlfriend. Yeah, I guess he used you.”

“Wow, Hannah (In case you haven’t caught on, none of these characters actually exist.), you’re really stressed out about how much debt you’re in and it’s starting to get hard to make your minimum payments? What are you doing to resolve this?” I’ll let my readers guess. Do you think Hannah has cut up her credit cards and is avoiding the mall to prevent impulse buys? Of course she’s not! In fact, she just bought 3 new pairs of shoes today. It really helps her to shop when she’s stressed out, you know.

My favorite Scrubs quote ever came from the end of an episode when JD was mentally pondering the lessons learned in said episode. He mused, “I always assumed growing up happened automatically as you got older, but it’s really something you have to choose to do.” I swear I got up and did a happy dance. :) I couldn’t believe how simple yet profound that statement was. JD (or more accurately his writers) hit that nail right on the head! If only I could teach all my friends this same lesson. Unfortunately, I think most of my friends, like me, want to learn all their lessons the hard way. They don’t want to benefit from the wisdom I’ve gained by growing up faster, they want to continue wandering aimlessly hoping that all the answers will fall on their laps and all the right doors will magically open for them.

I’ve got news for anyone that will listen. NOTHING will EVER magically fall into your lap. If you want something, you’ve got to work for it. And, just wanting “something” and “working” aren’t enough. You have to know what you want and work specifically for it . A very wise woman I know often says “the only difference between a dream and a goal is an action plan.” She is so right. To achieve anything, you must be working on purpose. Define what you want, break it down into smaller goals, then daily goals. Every day, make a list of things to do to get closer to that goal. In fact, make that list at night before you go to bed. Then,when you wake up the next morning, you know exactly what you need to accomplish. Every minute of every day, ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me closer to where I want to be?” Write that phrase down and post in in places that trip you up: by the computer, over the tv, on the fridge. I think humans have an inner drive to succeed; in my faith based opinion it’s the desire to become everything that God intends for us to be. I don’t think it’s possible for us to be truly happy when we’re not living, working, and playing up to our full potential.

Too often, I watch my friends allow themselves to be bogged down by situations that don’t make them happy. These situations are usually easier or less scary than what they could or should be out in the world doing, so they just stick with them. As a result, every day, they get a little more unhappy, a little more discontent, and a little more down on themselves. That’s why I just want to shake them and scream, “STOP!” I want them to realize that they are not victims of life or circumstance. I want them to understand that they are in whatever situation they are in because they choose to stay there. Absolutely no one can give their lives meaning except for them. I personally think they need to reach up to the Lord and ask what direction they should take with their lives. At the very least, they need to get honest with themselves about what they want and how to realistically achieve it. If only they would hear that from me…

It’s a Brand New Day

new-dayI’ve spent my whole life keeping most of my thoughts and feelings tucked deep inside, fearing that their escape would cause others to dislike me. I’ve avoided much needed confrontations, missed many opportunities to share my thoughts, and allowed others to make false assumptions about me. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be whatever it was that I thought everyone else thought I should be.

While I accept full responsibility for all of the things I did and didn’t do, I attribute the cause to my childhood. In my house, we were taught that we were always being watched and judged by others. We were taught that our opinions were only right if they were the same as our mother’s. We were taught that voicing our own opinions was actually attacking the opinions of those around us.

I’ve come to realize that none of that is true. People are supposed to be different. We are all individuals, including me. I don’t have to agree with someone in order to have a meaningful relationship with them, and the same is true in reverse. It is ok not to agree. It is ok to say something that might upset someone else. It is ok to be who I am.

I fear that I actually don’t know who I am at this point. I have been too busy trying to be what I thought I should be instead of discovering who I am. I fully intend to change that.

My first step in that direction is to be honest, both with myself and those I care about. Hopefully, I won’t loose anyone I love in the process. If I do, I will know that they didn’t actually love me but the person I allowed them to think I was.

My current goal in life is to detox all the false assumptions I’ve been living under. My new battle cry shall be: OUT WITH THE FAKE AND ACCEPT WHAT’S REAL! Perfect doesn’t exist, therefore I will no longer measure myself against an unattainable standard.