A Tale of Two Selfies

Well friends, it’s been a LONG time since I wrote. The radio silence has been equally due to two things. I have been busy and haven’t had anything to say that I wanted to tell the world. Many things have happened and much growth has occurred, some deeply private that I haven’t wanted to share on a platform like this, others have been smaller, creeping changes that haven’t screamed loud enough to get out of my head and on to paper. So what caused me to write again? A selfie. Profound.

A month or so ago, I was in the bathroom washing my hands, looked in the mirror and loved my hair, so I took a selfie. I looked at that picture and I loved what I saw. So I made that picture my profile picture. Now that may seem like a pretty ordinary set of events. But it wasn’t. It was significant.

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Up until about a year ago, my profile picture had always been a picture of my son and I, or of a friend and I. My identity was not my own. In my life, I have been daughter, wife, mother, student, and friend. And I have lost myself in all of those roles. This year I feel like I have finally become my own person. I am a mom, and a nurse, and a daughter, and a friend, I am all of those things, and none of those things…because I am ME. And I am starting to like me.

I moved out of my tiny studio of 8 years, into pretty much my dream house, this year. It is amazing what physical space can do for you. I also moved away from the property, family, neighbors, where I have lived for practically my whole life. It is amazing what emotional space can do for you. I also started my dream job as a postpartum nurse. It is amazing what a career can do for you. My ex-husband remarried this year. It is amazing what FINAL closure can do for you. I started my son on meds this year. It is amazing what finally making progress can do for you.

Now don’t get me wrong, with all those changes, it wasn’t all roses and rainbows. It was hard, ridiculously hard at times. There were many times I laid in bed starting at the ceiling wondering what the heck I doing and how was I going to keep this up, and was this ever going to get easier. And I still wonder that sometimes. But in an advent devotional before Christmas I came across this phrase. Make room. And that has become my motto of sorts.

Make room. Make room for God. Make room for people. Make room for me. Make room to breathe. I don’t have any of those things figured out, but I am working on it. Part of making room, is letting go of expectations. I am making room for God, by dropping my guilt when I don’t meet the self imposed expectation that I should have a quite time every day. That gives me the freedom to breathe Him in and make room in little ways that snowball into bigger ways. I make room for other people, by dropping expectations, by not defining, by letting people be who they are. I make room for me by dropping the expectations I put on myself, by taking time to breathe, to rest, to connect. And the crazy thing is that since I have given myself the permission to binge watch Netflix or take a nap on a day off…my house has never been cleaner. By giving myself some room to rest and take care of myself, I am much more productive at other times.

So back to the selfie, I looked at this picture I took and I saw this cute, smart, funny, confident, content person looking back at me. I had never seen that before. Later that week I got on the scale, and realized that I was almost back up to my heaviest weight again. And I thought about that selfie and I laughed! Because it so perfectly illustrated the old saying that weight is just a number. I went looking for an old picture from when I was at that weight before. And it was a picture of a totally different person. I tried to remember what it was like being that girl. I know I didn’t feel cute, how can you when you are not comfortable in your own skin? I know I didn’t feel smart or funny, how can you when you feel helpless. I know I wasn’t confident, how can you when you are ridiculously insecure. And I know I wasn’t content, I wanted so much more out of life and how no idea how to get there.

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Guess what. I didn’t get there. A year after that picture was taken, my whole world started to crumble and the life that I thought I wanted disappeared. I had to start over from the ground up. I had to decide who I wanted to be. I never expected to be the person I am now, I never set out with this goal in mind. But I have picked up the pieces and slowly put them back together and become a whole person again. A different person. A stronger person. A person with more capacity to love. A person with the capacity to love myself. A person who is better for having been broken.

And that my friends is why you should take selfies now and then. 😉

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All the Single Ladies

It is here again, February. The month that single ladies seem to dread, and I am already hearing the complaints about “Singles Awareness Day”.  Every year on Valentines Day I end up making a Facebook post in response to all the posts by my single friends. This year I thought I would get ahead of the curve.

A little history of my history with Valentine’s Day is in order. Growing up we always made Valentines cards for family members; they were works of love involving doilies, lace, scissors and glue.  For many years when I was small we had small fabric hearts, which at Christmas would hang on the tree, then when the tree was put away, they would hang on a row of nails across the beam in the middle of the house. Some years we had a Valentines tree, pruned branches of fruit trees that were forced into bloom by being brought inside, we would make small valentines to hang on the branches. When I got older my dad would always bring home potted primroses, cards and candy for my mom and I.

Fast forward to the first Valentine’s Day I went out with a boyfriend. We went to a concert at our church, I can’t even remember who was playing. He picked me up, for the first time ever, and we were just so happy to be driving alone that we took the long way around to church. I had made him chocolate chip cookies. He had nothing for me. I still remember the sheepish look on his face as he handed me a lollipop he got from the sound room. Fast forward again, to the Valentine’s Day before I married that same boyfriend. He gave me a salad spinner, (I really, really wanted one) and inside it were snickers bars and homemade coupons for back massages. (Which when I ran across one, years later in our marriage, he refused to honor.) In nine years those are the ONLY two valentines days I remember. (actually, I remember one more…but that memory is terrible, and I would rather not talk about it.)

I have way more memories of family Valentine’s Days then of romantic Valentine’s Days. In the last 6 years of I being single again, I have had great Valentine’s Days with my family, we lay out our cards and gifts at each persons place setting for dinner. Several times my mom has made a delicious heart shaped pizza. Once I went out with a friend for dinner and a sappy chick flick.

Why do I tell you all this? Because being with someone is no guarantee of a happy, satisfying Valentine’s Day. And NOT being with someone doesn’t have to mean a sad, disappointing Valentine’s Day.

The point is: Valentines Day is just a day. It can be good or bad depending on what YOU make of it. You can choose to wallow in your singleness, be hyper sensitive to all the hearts and flowers, and make comments about how stupid it is. (And can I just mention, self-pity is NOT attractive) OR you can chose to make the most of the day, by showing those around you that you love them. Make cards. Have friends over for dinner. Decorate. Make it about giving love, not selfishly wanting romantic tokens. Don’t let one day ruin your month, your week, or even your day.

So what are my plans for Valentine’s Day this year? My best friend and I are taking our sons to their first rock concert. Definitely cracking up to be the most memorable Valentine’s Day date I have ever had.

Thirty

Today I turn thirty. I had big plans for my birthday, as mentioned in my last blog. Not only are those plans not coming true, no plans are happening today. Both my son and I are sick, so celebrations plans have had to be postponed.  The one thing I most wanted to do on this milestone of a birthday, besides spending it with friends, was to thank my friends and let them know what they mean to me. So I am going to do that. This originally started out as a speech for my imagined party, but given the circumstances I thought I would share it here. The upside? You won’t see me cry as I try to get through it.

My life at thirty is totally different then I had ever planned, and it is better than I could have imagined, in large part because of the friends that have come into my life. At thirty I think I am finally comfortable in my own skin, and that is in due in large part to the people I am lucky enough to call friends. While there have been many people who have influenced my life in big and small ways over the last 7 years, these have had the largest impact on getting me to where I am now. I am going to list them in order of how long I have known them.

Justin- You are one of the few friends that carried over from my “other life” We have know each other since Jr. High, that is a long time to know someone. We haven’t always been close or even kept in touch. But you were there for me at my darkest moments. You were the only friend who walked with me through my divorce, who saw the good, the bad and the ugly. Who always listened, and never judged. For this I will be forever grateful.

Lia- You are an answer to prayer, literally. I needed a friend so desperately and I prayed and prayed for one. I wasn’t so sure about you at first, but I am so glad I took the chance. You have been the most amazing friend I could imagine. You have been with me through all the ups and downs of figuring out my new life. You always have a listening ear, encouraging words, and good advice. You always tell me how you are praying for me, and that means the world to me! I can’t imagine doing life without you.

Henry- If Lia was an answer to prayer, you were the answer to a prayer I didn’t know I prayed. For the last few years I have seen you more often that anyone else in my life, other than my family. There is something about seeing someone that often, you can’t hide. You see each other’s ups and downs and everything in between. Somewhere in the middle of nursing school you became more than just a friend; you became family. Watching out for me AND making fun of me, in true big brother fashion. You kept me from losing my sanity. Thank you for walking through life with me.

Elizabeth- When I met you I was in a lonely place in life, I felt like I just didn’t fit in anywhere. Then I met you; the crazy tattooed lady. And with some other friends we spent the summer just doing life together. No one cared that I was a single mom with a crazy kid, and for the first time since my divorce I felt accepted. I felt like I fit. You have seen me fall apart more than anyone else on this list, (which may only be twice, but still) you have seen me cry and eat Oreos off your floor. You have always been willing to watch my son when I need it, and have always opened your home to me. Thank you for being there when I need you.

Cara- Honestly, when I first met you I was a little intimidated by you. You were beautiful, funny, and confident. All things I didn’t feel I was. But as I got to know you, I couldn’t help but like you, you were real and honest and kind. As we became friends your confidence started to rub off on me, and not only was I no longer intimidated by you, I started to be less intimidated by other people and situations. You helped me learn to not take myself so seriously, to lighten up and have some fun. I needed that so much, thank you.

Aundria- When we started talking I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I have never become so close of friends with someone so quickly. But just like with everyone else on the list it was obvious that God had brought us into each other’s lives for a reason. After Baby was born, it may have seemed like I was helping you; but really you were helping me. You helped me see a purpose for my story, as I was able to use it to help you. I love your blatant honesty; it has helped me to be honest and real with you and with others. Thank for sticking with me, even when I could only be your Sunday friend.

The most amazing thing about this list is that, except one, none of these people were in my life just 5 short years ago. If that doesn’t give me hope for what the next 5 years hold, I don’t know what will.

Lights

If I had to choose only one decoration for Christmas, I would choose lights. I love lights. As I write I sit in the light from our little Christmas tree, our new-this-year wall tree, and the lights strung on the ceiling around my son’s bed.

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One of my favorite things to do is turn off all the lights in the house, and just sit and look at the Christmas tree; it is so peaceful and calming. I love the first night time drive down Main Street after it has been turned into Candy Cane Lane, lights sparkling, making me smile. I love houses, fences, store windows decked out with lights. I love that at this time of year even the stoplights seem festive, reflecting red, green and gold off all the raindrops on my windshield.

There it is. God, “slipping out” of unexpected places. Every twinkling light shining out into the darkness, a reminder of the Light of the World, dwelling among us; a light shining in the darkness, which the darkness cannot overcome. Somehow at this time of year, conquering darkness seems possible.

Christmas miracles happen, needs are met, and wishes come true. Good seems to prevail, as people reach out to friends and neighbors and give to those in need. Scrooge’s Nephew said it well,

“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, – apart from the veneration due to it’s sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys”

But life goes on despite the season. Tragedy happens, needs go unmet, and dreams crumble. As we see the decorations of the seasons let us remember what they represent and let us “open [our] shut up hearts freely” and be the light shining in someone’s darkness.

 

“Need a Little Christmas Now”

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. Growing up we always had to wait till after Thanksgiving to listen to Christmas Music and we didn’t decorate the tree till my birthday, twelve days before Christmas. But for the last few years I have done Christmas earlier. While I completely disagree with the store isles being jam-packed with Christmas decorations in August, I did break out the Christmas music early and decked out my house a week before December. While partly practical, (Finals are coming, and if I don’t do it now, when?) the other part is more deep-seated than that, I NEED Christmas.

There is something so comforting and peaceful about Christmas for me. In the middle of all the craziness, there is something that never changes, something that is joyful and good. Constant reminders of hope.

This year Christmas started for me sometime in October. I was in Target, and as I walked by the Christmas section at the back of the store, a Christmas carol was playing. I don’t remember which one. But right there in Target, over the speakers someone was singing about my Jesus, come to earth as a baby. I sang along and left the store humming and smiling. I listen to Christian radio all year round. But there is something different about Christmas music. It is filled with celebration, hope, and promise.

And so as I baked pies the day before Thanksgiving, I was feeling tired and worn out by life. I needed Christmas. I opened iTunes and went to my Christmas playlist. Suddenly, all was right with the world.

I started with my new favorite obscure Christmas album from last year. (Download Here, free!) The first song is about Zechariah and Elizabeth; my favorite line is “God keeps slipping out of underneath rocks, in alleys off the beaten path, open both your eyes.” That is how I feel about Christmas time; God keeps slipping out. No matter how materialistic or politically correct we get, He is there. In a million little ways, if we would just open our eyes.

More about Christmas coming up.

 

Little Things

So I started this blog with the hope that it would encourage me to write more often…because I need to. So now, instead of thinking “I should write” and going about my day not doing it, I think, “I should write” then go about my day feeling guilty for not doing it.  Mission accomplished.

I have several things I started writing, but wasn’t sure exactly where to go with it, or wasn’t sure how vulnerable I really wanted to be. I will finish them. Soon. I hope. But for today I thought I would throw out some random small thoughts. And ask you some random questions.

1. I hate snakes. We killed one in the yard today. I dreamt about snakes during my afternoon nap.

Is there anything worse to dream about than snakes?

2. I love Fall. A week into October, here in the Central valley, and the weather is finally starting to agree with the calendar, just a little bit. I have worn jeans the last two days. I ate pumpkin bread this morning. I am planning on wearing a new sweater (albeit short sleeved) to church in the morning. Next weekend we are going to a pumpkin patch with a steam train, our favorite October activity.

What is your favorite Fall activity?

3. I love this quote.

“For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are that you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.” – Andy Rooney

I choose happiness. I choose happiness by delighting in all the little things about Fall (see # 2). I choose happiness when I snuggle with my boy and listen to him chatter about his latest crazy idea. I choose happiness when I go to Starbucks and catch up on my favorite blogs, browse Pinterest, and waste time on Facebook. I choose happy when get to spend time with a friend, when I find something totally awesome on clearance at Target, when I enjoy a delicious meal or an incredible dessert. If I waited for the big things I would be miserable, but instead I “live with quite a bit of happiness”

What makes you happy?

4. This morning I went to a Fostering & Adoption 101 workshop at my church, presented by City Without Orphans. It was an awesome morning; they presented great information, shared amazing stories and gave many people a jumping off point to decide what is right for them and their families. I am in no position to do either. Why would I go to this? Because it has always been in my heart. For a long time, in the back of my mind, I have thought that I would have a couple children of my own and then foster adopt a couple more. So I went to hear the information for myself, and also to know what the processes are so I can support those I know who are going through the process themselves, and as a nurse I feel like it is good to know what options and services are out there and how the system works.

Have ever considered fostering or adopting? I encourage you to pray about it, and don’t be afraid to seek out information. The need is great, and the rewards are eternal.

5. Christmas is coming. I know, I know, I just said Fall finally hit 2 days ago! I HATE that the stores already have Christmas decorations, right next to Halloween decorations. I like to enjoy my seasons one at a time. BUT shopping for the children in my life is done. (yes, yes, I know, you hate me.) But I jumped on some great deals at the JBF sale, and ordered a few things off Amazon. My budget is next to nothing this year, so I am trying to think ahead and get as much bang for my buck as possible. I started on my annual craft project (usually an ornament) for my family members this week. I wanted to get an early start while I have the time off from clinicals for the next few weeks. I don’t want to be cramming for finals and cramming for Christmas at the same time. I still want to come up with some special projects for gifts for my parents, and other in town family, but I have a little more time on those since they don’t have to be mailed.

Have you started thinking about Christmas yet?

6. I am restless.

Are you?

That is it for today. Next time I promise will be a more complete thought.