Sep 27, 2017 - Doctorate, My Story    1 Comment

My Three-Year Pregnancy

Before you ask, I am not really pregnant.

But I feel pregnant.

I am in my second year of a three-year doctoral program and I’ve begun to think of each year like a trimester. Perhaps this is just because I’m surrounded by little ones all day long, but the analogy works in my mind! Each trimester brings with it joys and pitfalls. Each with new challenges and changes. Here’s what I mean:

First Trimester: I read the books before hand. I planned to enter into this “pregnancy.” I felt prepared. But I wasn’t. My body underwent changes. I stopped sleeping. I had strange cravings. Morning sickness, projects, and anxiety abounds as the future feels daunting. How can I make it to the end? This is not what I expected it would be like.

Second Trimester: Currently, I’m in the second trimester, I have worked through the morning sickness, am comfortable with the idea of this pregnancy/program, and able to make plans to meet this little one. I’ve hit a good stride and the second trimester is magic. I’m far enough into the pregnancy to feel familiar with my new routines, but not so large that I am physically uncomfortable. I’m planning for the future, picking out nursery colors, and watching as my baby and project begin to take shape.
Third Trimester: The third trimester/year will arrive soon enough, and I’ll be more than ready to birth this doctoral project and get this kid out of me so I can sleep again! I am sure I will have “senioritis” and the need to feel finished with this program in the coming months and years and will need encouragement to finish with grit and grace. I will be anxious for the “post-natal” phase of life to begin.
Even as I write this, I know that the post-natal/post-graduation phase of life will bring with it new challenges, joys, pitfalls, and changes. Life seems to be in a constant state of transition. Always seemingly just out of the reach of stability. But that doesn’t make it bad. My dad has reminded me ever since I can remember that each phase of life has its joys and drawbacks. None is inherently better than the other and I can learn from all of them.
Learn from the struggles. Accentuate the good. And keep living the adventure of life.
I’m trying to take his advice. So I continue to eat healthy, sleep when I can, exercise, go to the doctor and care for this little bundle of doctoral joy that I’m currently maturing during my three-year pregnancy.
Moms, what did I miss in my trimester analogy?
Aug 2, 2017 - My Story    1 Comment

Level Up!

Do you anticipate or dread birthdays?

For me, birthdays bring up such mixed emotions. I often feel grateful for another year of life, adventures, and sanctification. But some years bring up feelings of ennui. I ask myself, “What do I have to show for myself this year?” or “Why doesn’t my life feel like I imagined it?”

This was one of those years.

I turned 35. That felt like a significant number. Yes, I am pursuing another degree. Yes, I have wonderful friends & family. Yes, I have people in my corner who love me. But sometimes, in my downcast moments, I can concentrate on what I don’t have. I wish I had a guy in my life.  I wish my ovaries didn’t twitch so much, wishing for a little one of my own, not just the cuties I get to serve at work each day. If I have a baby in the future I will be officially considered a “geriatric mother” and although I know many women who have had children later in life, that diagnoses scares me because I am well acquainted with the risks.

I dreaded this birthday for several months. But I had two choices: to isolate and wallow in ennui. Or to be honest about my disappointments and then choose to concentrate on gratitude.

I chose the latter. I bought a new outfit, organized a few birthday celebrations, and surrounded myself with people who could both be honest about life’s disappointments and also celebrate heartily.

I even had a theme: I don’t get older, I level up!

34 was an important year for me. I began my doctoral degree. I moved houses. I went on adventures. I chose joy and wonder in the face of obstacles. I chose to play, even at 35, I’m not too old to be silly. I prayed and journaled honestly about how much I was dreading this year and this age. I shared the fears I had, both legitimate and imagined. I organized a day full of playfulness including friends, special meals, and an escape game!

I ended up having a wonderful birthday. I received love through hugs, texts, messages, phone calls, and laughter throughout the day. I believe I was able to experience the beauty of this day because I was willing to go through the valley of disappointment honestly. Life is not what we expect it to be. It is not perfect. But that does not mean it is not wonderful!

Here’s to the year of wonder. Level up!

The Mercy of Confusion

I have been co-leading a Sunday School class this semester on hermeneutics, or the interpretation of scripture. It has been a delight to read theological material again, discuss ideas in the Bible, and basically getting my mind blown weekly by our analyzation.

Last week we were diagramming Genesis 11:1-9, the Tower of Babel scene, which moves slowly inward, has a sharp turning point and then widens again. See if you can identify the shift:

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

This passage is familiar to many, but we saw something new in it. In the beginning, everyone had one language and they were seeking to draw everyone together and make a name for themselves. By building a tower to reach heaven, they were trying to be in control of their future.

But the Lord came down. This is the turning point of this chiasm and story. He interrupted their work, confused the language, and scattered the workers. It seems  a shame. They had worked so hard. No doubt they had the best architects of the day for this project, but they were working for their own names, not for the Lord.

The Lord interrupted them; He saved them from themselves.There is some good that would happen if we all got together and spoke the same language, but there is a great likelihood for evil as well. Through His work and language changes, He spread the people over the whole face of the earth, created cultures, clans, traditions and rituals that would not have existed if we all spoke the same language. He prevented us from trying such a building project again. He reminds us that He is in charge.

This is the mercy of confusion. God interrupts my plans, he breaks down my tower, he confuses my language. I may be frustrated in the short-term, but I cannot see what He is protecting me from or how He is intervening to make something even more beautiful in the future. He is merciful. He is good. He intervenes even in my small building projects with grace and love. I often worry about the future, but I’m trying to reframe my thinking and realize that my current confusion, might just be the mercy of the Lord.

Jul 12, 2017 - My Story    2 Comments

My Prince is on a Turtle

I am here today to share with you the wild world of online dating. If you haven’t had the opportunity to engage in such an adventure, I highly recommend it. It is a special form of torture in this technologically savvy world. If you are familiar with the online dating world, I commiserate with you. From what I’ve heard, even for many couples who have had success from online dating sites, the process was tiresome and frustrating at times.

Here’s how it has gone for me:

I decide to take a risk and sign up for online dating. I spend hours writing a profile and picking pictures where I look attractive, but not unrealistically so, and post it for the world to see and judge. These few pictures and paragraphs become my essence on the screen by which men decide if I am worth their time or not. It is an incredibly vulnerable experience. Based on a magical algorithm, I get matched with several guys every day and look at their profiles to see if I sense the possibility of connection. I reach out to any guys where I see potential, and hear back from approximately 5% of them. Those statistics, and the associated feelings of rejection, alone are enough to make me mad.

Here’s my initial requirement list:

  1. Loves God (mentions something religious or spiritual in his profile)
  2. Has a job
  3. Can write a coherent sentence

That’s it. That’s my first wave of weed outs. I’m not asking too much, and yet there are many, many fellas who don’t make it past wave one for many reasons.

My Oh No-No List.

Just as I have an initial requirement list, I have a list of deal breakers, which after the character of Tom Haverford, I have named my “Oh No-No’s”

  1. Shirtless selfies in the bathroom – just stop. I’m glad you work on your fitness, but this should not be your profile picture. It makes me feel like you expect me to reciprocate!
  2. Pictures hugging another girl – I realize that this is a good photo of you, but perhaps another photo without your ex girlfriend’s face whited out next to you would be more alluring to future romantic prospects.
  3. Banana hammocks – See Oh No-No number one.
  4. Too many consonants – any sentence which begins, “Hey Girrrrrlll” Sorry, we’re just not going to be a match. Quality words are my friends and love to write, so I need someone who can converse on another level, with the right number of consonants.
  5. One word answers. “What are you most passionate about?” “Who has influenced you the most in your life?” “What do you love most about your life right now?” These are large and powerful questions! Entire books could be written on these questions! If you answer them, “Food. Mom. Sleep.” respectively, I fear we won’t have much to talk about.
  6. Lying about your age – Your profile says you’re 36, but I would bet $1000 that you are no less than 66. That seems like kind of a big difference. Be proud to be your age! It’s okay! But lying about it isn’t.

(Before you ask, yes all of those are absolutely real situations.)

I try to view this online adventure as my opportunity to better someone else’s life. My goal in dating is to leave the person better off than I found him. I seek to share some encouragement, mention a quality I see that is positive, or share how his words have affected me. I focus heavily on seeking to better the other’s life rather than trying to find something to shut down the link. I want to have hope, but have come to the conclusion that my prince is on a turtle somewhere…

While online dating, I’ve met some quality and classy guys and a lot of duds. Every time I log on to my profile, I wonder if today could be the day that I meet someone special. Could today be the day a new story starts? And when I log off I remind myself that my life is wonderful and that my story is being written by a Heavenly Author who knows the end, even if my chapter of singleness was longer than I had planned.

Here’s what I know:

Singleness is not a punishment and marriage is not a right.

Everyone suffers. Marriage is not the arrival point or finish line and it doesn’t make life easier.

God is at work in my heart and is drawing me closer to Himself with every experience, good and painful.

I am surrounded by people who love me.

With every excitement, possibility, and celebration, I have been able to call on friends who have been excited with me. With every closed door, end of a relationship, or disappointment, I have been able to call on friends who have sat with me in the mess of life and let me cry… and maybe brought ice cream.

So with my team of people behind me cheering me on, I dry my tears and forge steadily onward, knowing that I don’t know the end, but I will trust the process. Correction: I will trust the One who directs the process. And I will enjoy the story He’s writing in my life… no matter what.

 

 

Jun 23, 2017 - Doctorate, Humor    1 Comment

Adding Playtime

Life is busy.

That may be the biggest understatement of the year for you, just as it is for me.

My friend recently told that I was effectively leading three lives, which she labeled as: full-time student, full-time therapist, and everything else (church, friends, sleep, downtime).

I have tried very purposefully to balance and keep the three lives moving in unison. But without constant vigilance, the first two lives balloon out and eclipse the third. I will not allow my school projects to usurp self-care time. I will work fervently when I am at work, and I will rest fiercely when I am away.

I’ve started adding time that I call Doctoral Student Playtime. I need it. My days are directed by infants’ schedules and productivity demands. My evenings are swallowed in research articles and APA citations. There has to be a third space to keep me sane.

I’ve fit lots of options into this third space: Disney, dinner with a friend, sitting outside and watching the birds at my bird feeder (Yes, I am an old lady). I’ve added another category: Play. Do the unexpected. Be ridiculous. Laugh at yourself.

I read a book recently, aptly called Play, which argued for the importance of play in childhood. As a therapist, I know this. Play is a child’s primary occupation. It is the principle method utilized to learn about oneself and the world. But the book argued that playtime was also crucial for adults. We need a balance in life. We will quickly run out of steam if work, productivity, achievement, accomplishment, and efficiency is our driving force.

Levity matters. Playfulness strengthens. Laughter heals.

It doesn’t take long. The more ridiculous, the better in my opinion. Five minutes of laughter can fill my tank after five hours of paper writing. So I’m committed to making time to play. I invite you to join me!

Jun 17, 2017 - My Story    No Comments

Defeated by my Dryer

My appliances are ganging up on me. They must plot at night to see the best way to derail my carefully laid plans. There’s no other explanation for it.

ACT I – Characters and Conflict Introduced 

Two weeks ago, my year-old dryer unexpectedly quit working. After three hours of trying to dry one load of laundry, I gave up and hung my scrubs from every available surface in my house. The machine turned on, the motor worked, but there was zero heat. Which I learned was a necessity for a dryer’s function, after I tried, unsuccessfully, to dry a load of laundry for three hours. When I calculated the amount of laundry done in my house and the amount of time needed to air dry and the surface area from which to hang clothes, I knew we needed a quick fix.

One Google search, two YouTube videos, and one Amazon Prime order later… I decided to fix it myself.

I am a MacGyver at heart. I believe duct tape can cure many of the worlds ills. But I have never attempted a repair of this scale. But the video was only six minutes long, so I figured I could handle it.

I took apart the shell, door, moisture sensing and door wires, heating housing, and replaced the heating element. I watched the YouTube video ten seconds at a time and performed the necessary steps. What took YouTube six minutes, took me two hours to perform. 

I had a good attitude throughout it all. I even stopped to take pictures, thinking to myself, “This is going to be a blog post!” I began narrating my post in my head as my roommate cheered me on (Yes, I narrate my own life). I would be played by Rosie the Riveter, a fierce, resourceful, and independent woman who could handle anything. I whistled to myself as I put my dryer back together, confident that I was awesome.

ACT II – The Struggle

Last Saturday morning, I embarked on a quest to fix my dryer. I was covered in sweat and dryer lint. There was blood. There were tears. And my dryer emerged victorious!

I was crushed. This was not the narrative I was writing. Perhaps, I was not Rosie the Riveter after all. I felt small, alone, and like I had wasted my day. I got a shower and cried. (On a side note, after this debacle, I had two term papers to write for school. It was a rough day.)

I had a choice. I could either give up and call an actual repairman, or I could try again. Having a stubborn streak in me, I chose the latter.

Commence more Google searches. More YouTube videos. More parts overnighted from Amazon.

ACT III – The Resolution

Sunday, I did it all again. My friend held a flashlight while I unscrewed, jimmied, grunted, and problem solved to replace the fuse and the thermostat. I put the pieces back together more tentatively this time. I was at the end of my fuse (pun intended). If this didn’t work, I had no other options. I had exhausted my knowledge and skills.

But my dryer heated!

I danced a jig. I fist pumped. I got so excited that I accidentally high-fived my roommate in the face.

FIN

So, what was the purpose of this three act play? Why did I have to go through the lows of Saturday before experiencing the highs of Sunday? Because my strength is tested and formed in times of struggle and disappointment. Because the fully functioning dryer was sweeter to me after sitting in the mess of the brokenness. Because life isn’t linear. Instead, our growth is parabolic, full of ups and downs, highs and lows, and all demanding perseverance.

I experienced a bit of sanctification last weekend as I battled my dryer. The narrative in my head wasn’t always accurate the first time, but it was good in the end. I have other narratives that I’ve been writing for quite some time that aren’t ending up as I had planned. I’ve narrated how I would meet my soul mate. I’ve narrated my perfect job. I’ve narrated my publishing career. I’ve narrated and re-narrated my five-year plan a dozen times. But God is writing a different story in my life. And His story is sure to contain many Act II moments, but it is sure to be good in the end.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

PS – If you want to battle your own dryer, here’s the video!

May 14, 2017 - Devotional    1 Comment

You Are Seen

Mother’s Day is complicated and full of contradictory emotions.

There is the joy and celebration of new moms, proud grandparents and generations brought together. Tiny snuggles. Milestones recorded. Love abounding.

I celebrate with you.

There is the disappointment of strained relationships between parents and children. Poor communication. Regrets and resentment impacting relationships.

I forgive with you.

There are women longing to be mothers, but because of infertility or lack of a partner, they wait in longing for their own little miracle, keeping track of the passing of time.

I hope with you.

There are women who have lost mothers through death or abandonment. Who long for the perfect family, but experience an empty seat at the table.

I grieve with you.

There are mothers who have lost children. Little lives gone too soon. Empty cribs and unused toys remain as reminders of their tragic loss.

I lament with you. 

If Mother’s Day has been joyful or sorrowful, I see you. I want to be able to celebrate the mountain tops of the joys of motherhood, to say a hearty thank you for all the immense self-sacrifice that moms do everyday without recognition. You are amazing. Thank you. And I want to acknowledge that this is not everyone’s experience. Some dread Mother’s Day. Some are reminded of what is not more than what is.

I see you.

No matter the age, stage, or situation for you this Mother’s Day, I wish you a day of hope and love and the sense that you are seen and known by the God of the universe in your joy and your pain.

You are seen. You are heard. You are loved.

Mar 19, 2017 - My Story, Writing    No Comments

My Lenten Addition

Lent.

A season of deprivation and anticipation for 40 days prior to Easter. Lent is a time of focus and expectancy. It is a tradition in Christianity to mark seasons and adjust our routines based on the calendar. I tend to have a long period of anticipation prior to Christmas as outside factors help remind me of what is coming. Retailers, advertisers, and list-making family members reinforce my anticipation for Christmas, but Lent to me is more personal, more introspective, more private. Lent is a time of internal preparation before the highest of holy days. There is much less external pressure to conform. No house decorations need be organized and few presents are purchased, but Christmas means nothing without Easter. Therefore, I celebrate Lent.

Many choose to go without and give up something dear, tasty, or expensive to train their hearts to be grateful with less. Chocolate, coffee, ice cream, and alcohol are among the Lenten sacrifices that I hear mentioned most often. Forfeiting something delicious can, if used properly, refocus your heart on the goodness in Christ. Every good gift comes from God above, therefore, longing for something good can remind us of God.

I’ve given up items in the past, but in more recent years, I’ve switched from subtracting something good to adding something good instead. I’ve added stillness, restfulness, or play. Every year I take stock of something needed in my life and concentrate on that for forty days.

This year I’ve added connection.

My life often feels like it is busting at the seams and barely being held together by frayed duct tape. I need to feel the support and love of others, or such a season is a long and lonely road. I need people. I need time with friends. I need moments of connection to balance my ever-growing to do list. This Lenten season, I am seeking to connect with others through cards or text messages or phone calls or lunch dates. Oftentimes I have just a few minutes before my class starts at night, but that is enough time to write a “just because” note to a loved one. On Ash Wednesday, I set out forty cards on my desk. My goal is that they would be written in and handed out by Easter.

This year, I hope to provide moments of connection for myself and for others. And that is the biggest difference in my experience between choosing to subtract for Lent versus choosing to add. In my experience, subtracting something good has challenged and stretched me, but adding something good has blessed me and others. My prayer is that such a goal would be true as we walk the valley of Lent in preparation for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday.

Do you celebrate Lent? What do you choose to subtract or add?

Mar 14, 2017 - Devotional, Writing    No Comments

The Story of Life

How many people would want to read a book that started like this?

“Once upon a time there was a princess. She was beautiful and everyone loved her and life always went her way all the time…”

Where’s the conflict? Where’s the reason for the story? Where’s the character development?

Plus, if this princess had no struggles or conflict and always got what she wanted, I doubt her kingdom would continue to love her for long.

And yet, that’s what I always imagined my life story would sound like. I imagined that I would work hard and enjoy things in life that were good and be loved by all those around me. I’ve had to come to terms first with the fact that this is not my life story and secondly that I am thankful that it is not!

Struggle is part of the story. It should be. Struggle makes us grow, change, persevere, show grit, and develop as people. Authors know this well. Every character needs a conflict, rising action, and a climax in order to become the character they were meant to be. Why would I expect a different plan from the Author of my life?

The struggle is an integral part of the story. I benefit from some struggle. I become a fuller and more developed character when I am stretched, pressed, disappointed, persevering, courageous, and vulnerable. Struggle allows me to be refined into something even better. My goal is to struggle well. To be honest with the struggles and share them like my pile of beans! To know that God does not waste pain or time or barriers. Characters need a contest, a conflict, a barrier or a strain to overcome. It makes for strong literature. It makes for strong people too.

Mar 5, 2017 - Devotional    1 Comment

The Inefficiency of Self Care

Efficiency is my love language.

I jest.

(But it’s also true.)

I am a do-er. I work hard at my job, and in school, and take care of other tasks along the way. I get more done than the average person. I am learning to take care of myself with the same intensity.

Self care is important. I rest and pull away from tasks in order to remind myself that I am valuable not because of my doing, but because of my being. But somehow I still want it to be efficient!

Recently I went to the beach for a day of rest in between the madness of life. I laid on the beach;  I read some, listened to the surf, and just existed for four whole hours. And as I drove home, I felt, approximately one hour better. I wished to feel four hours better! I didn’t want it to feel like wasted time that somehow could have been used more effectively.

Self care is inherently inefficient.

I cannot rest at the same pace that I run. They are inherently different activities and will got at different paces. But self care, rest, Sabbath, and being are essential. They are healthy and they give purpose to the doing and the tasks that I am so good at.

Self care may feel inefficient, but it is not optional.

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