5 Things I Learned in June

5 things June

Each and every summer, I’m surprised by things that I’ve learned from previous summers but forgotten. September through May has a way of giving me amnesia. And then June rolls around, shaking her head and saying “Silly girl, this happens every summer. You should take notes.”

Dear June, this is me, taking notes. Please remind me twelve months from now that I wrote it down.

The What We Learned posts are hosted by Emily Freeman as a “monthly community link-up to share the fascinating, ridiculous, sacred, or small.”

Mine is usually just ridiculous.

In no particular order, here are 5 things I’ve learned in June.

1. Summer spotlights my introversion like nothing else.

I have a dear friend who actually has more energy for those in her household when she’s actively engaged with others outside of her family on a regular basis, something that confounds me. I can’t tell you how jealous I am of her extroverted ways.

The relational energy required of me by the four people I live with seems to drain all the relational energy I have. Not because they’re crazy people but because my social reserves run low.

On the two occasions I’ve been with other women over the summer, I feel inexplicably tired. As in, I can barely keep my eyes open. The entire next day I’m in a fog. It’s terribly inconvenient. Because I love my friends and my community and I feel like I just waved goodbye to everyone until the end of August.

I remind myself that I’ve only got 4 summers left with my oldest. Four. I could cry. The relational energy that summer mothering requires of me is embarrassing, but I know it’s effort well spent. These are my main people. I just need some breaks here and there to stay the summer course.

 

2. I stay up too late in the summer.

I go to bed early during the school year. When the kids are gone during the day, I get a break from talking and being a referee and answering questions about sharks and listening to so many words. But during the summer, I’ve noticed that I stay up late just for the quiet and solitude. As summer bounds along, I find myself feeling lethargic and unmotivated.

My husband told me this morning that staying up late might be why I’m so tired. #genius

 

3. I’m a fan of the capsule wardrobe.

The capsule is nothing new. I’m just late to the party. Simplifying is something that’s become increasingly appealing to me as I get older and long to streamline pretty much everything about my life.

One’s closet is a pretty non-threatening place to start.

I followed the capsule advice from un-fancy. Here are the basics:

unfancychallenge2

{source}

I even used her free wardrobe planner. It’s been about six weeks now and the whole experiment has been a game-changer in all the best ways.

I’m sure this will be a post in and of itself at some point but for now, let me just toss out a few lessons I’ve learned.

Fewer options = faster decisions.

Fewer pieces = more creativity.

Less = more. More time, more money, more simplicity.

I know, I’m such an unlikely convert because clothes are my jam. But here’s the thing — outfit-making is still way fun and I’ve tried combos I never would’ve considered since I have fewer items overall.

 

4. I tend to trade one obsession for another. In this case, clothes for make-up.

You might think I’ve gone all minimalist since I’m doing the capsule and all. But I just swap addictions. I may not be thrifting and shopping like I used to but I’ve fallen in love again with make-up.

It all started with a scheduled makeover at the Bobbi Brown make-up counter for my birthday.

I’ve had a girl crush on Bobbi since she started doing makeovers on the Today Show years ago. I might even want to be her.

{source}

But Bobbi’s products are spendy and I couldn’t even go there. {Even if I have watched all of her online makeup lessons instead of doing important things like humanitarian work and laundry.}

I’m in my 40s now. The days of getting by with mascara and tinted lip balm when I’m in a hurry are long gone. It’s time to bring out the big guns.

I’ll always be the sort of gal who prefers a more natural look. But as I get older, things like primer and legit concealer and products with coverage and staying power become your best friends.

Even though I only bought three items from the Bobbi counter, I learned so many useful techniques from Kimberly, my makeup artist. Techniques I can apply no matter what products I’m using.

bobbi

I’m such a dork. Could my grin be any cheesier?

Getting ready has become fun again. I highly recommend a free makeup lesson. It’s one of the best ways I’ve ever treated myself and now I want to go back and take all my friends. {But not this summer. See #1.}

If you’re curious about the products I got for my birthday, here you go: creamy concealer, creamy concealer kit {Bobbi calls these products the “secret of the universe” and that’s no joke.} And because it’s summer, bronzing powder. All of her products are amazing and I want them.

 

5. I cut carbs. I feel better. I want cake.

I don’t do diets or food trends. I’m about eating when you’re hungry, eating mostly real food, and enjoying all things in moderation. I’ve never focused on protein because I don’t really enjoy many high-protein foods. I’ve always been a gal who loves her healthy-ish carbs and healthy-ish foods, even if I did reach for candy too often. Until recently, I could rationalize my imperfect, healthy-ish ways.

Again, enter the 40s. And I realized that my food choices were more -ish than healthy.

Between hormones and fatigue and being sidelined for 15 months with a back injury that keeps me from running, I’ve had to adopt a new game plan. So one day I talked to my sweet Pilates instructor at the Rec Center and, long story short, she got me started on an in-home strengthening program and eating plan. I’ve been doing it since May and you guys, I feel better. Like, a lot better. {Except for when I stay up too late. See #2.}

I don’t follow the plan perfectly but I’ve redefined it to work for me. Protein is my friend and most of my carbs now come from fruits and veggies and when I cheat with cake. Which I am suddenly obsessed with now that I can’t have it. Seriously, I think about cake all day long.

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So there you go. Five things I learned in June.

What have YOU learned this summer? We can dish in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter. Or you can chime in with you own list and link up with Emily.

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For the Christians Who Fear They’re Not Enough

for the christian who fears

On Monday I had a “chance” conversation with a friend on the phone. She told me that she’d listened to a sermon by a well-known pastor and when it was over she felt a sense of guilt and Christian inferiority.

What if she wasn’t doing enough for the kingdom of God? What if her life isn’t “enough?”

Every word she spoke resonated with me.

We may live in a post-Christian culture but I also happen to live smack in the center of the Bible Belt. I go to church, to Bible study, to a prayer group. I have sermons and Christian podcasts at my fingertips 24 / 7. I’ve read countless posts by Christian bloggers and books written by professional Christians.

Day after day, I’ve absorbed messages that have assembled themselves into a functional theology. And then one day I realize that I’ve steeped myself in partial truths that sound good and right but leave me in a place of fear-based striving and duty-bound performance. My outer life may look fine and good but my inner voices yell at me to “do more!” and “figure this out!” and “really sacrifice!”

You too?

Without knowing it, we begin living what we believe. Even if it’s not what we say we believe. I mean, who really says, “I believe in a theology of fear and guilt and striving?”

It’s well documented that we’re running around like crazy people trying to lasso our own securities in the form of success — our kids’ success, our financial standing, the renown of our “platforms.” Christians are as guilty as the rest for chasing after The American Dream.

But there’s this other security we’re chasing down. I believe it’s more dangerous than the American Dream.

We’re chasing down our own righteousness and it’s killing us.

Instead of living out of who we already are in Christ, we’re living out of who we want to be with Christ’s help. We think Jesus is our personal assistant instead of our personal savior who rescues us in both the eternal and the everyday sense.

exercise ball

We want to be better and do more and get this Christian living thing down pat. So we make everything from debt-free-ness and Biblically-literate kids to hospitality and social justice the measuring rods of how we’re doing. And they are good things. Godly things. My heart beats for all of them. Even though I feel ongoing guilt that my heart doesn’t beat as strongly for these things as it should.

But as the human heart is prone to do, it takes good things and makes them ultimate things. We define our position with God {and even with man} by what we do instead of whose we are.

The religious have been doing it for thousands of years and we moderns are the same.

The difference is that we have bookstores and radio programs and blogs and sermons highlighting “superior” Christians, “superior” Christian life-hacks, “superior” Christian families — people doing life righteously and radically — and those of us who are living life in the mediocre middle can get the impression that we’re not doing enough, that our lives don’t “count for the kingdom.” {A phrase that nauseates me because it reeks of self-focus.}

That was my friend’s lament. And it’s mine too.

window

I wake up each day readying breakfasts and lunches and clothes for those in my care. I get them to school and pick them up. I wipe tears and correspond with teachers. Is that enough?

I make an extra PB and J for the neighbor kid who may be at my table. I buy the snacks and participate in the team fund-raisers and read books on learning disabilities so that I can be a better equipped mom for my child who’s struggling. Is that enough?

I have the hard conversations with those who live in my home. We live and laugh and love and also fight a lot, day in and day out. I’m stressed out in front of them too much of the time and I have to apologize more than I wish I did. Is that enough?

We sponsor children who depend on those of us in the middle class a continent away for their education and medical care. But we’re not going there in person and digging wells. We haven’t taken a vow of poverty. We haven’t moved to the inner city. My kids wear Nikes instead of generic sneakers. We’re not sponsoring as many kids as we’d like to sponsor.

Our contributions to the kingdom of God feel painfully meager.

My friend asked me, “What does it look like, Marian? What does kingdom living look like here in the middle of the American Dream?”

“It looks like showing up,” I told her.

The words left my mouth before I was really aware of what I’d said.

“Every day, you simply show up. You be the wife, the mom, the daughter, the sister, the friend, the employee, the neighbor that the day invites you to be.”

Micah 6:8 comes to mind as I write this:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

To act justly may look like social justice and it may look like meting out truth in your own home between two squabbling siblings.

To love mercy may look like a move to an impoverished area or becoming a fostering parent. But it may also look like rescuing the child who calls from school in tears and needs to be picked up and bailed out, even though the situation is of their own doing.

To walk humbly with your God, well, isn’t that simply the posture of a life in Christ? A life that’s defined by love and grace and rescue?

Humility is about availability, to God and to others.

tab and nomi

It means accepting the chance conversations as opportunities to listen. And sometimes to speak.

It means running forgotten lunches to school because we’re all forgetful sometimes.

It means seeing people in their very obvious sin and first identifying with them as a fellow struggler instead of quickly judging and then elevating yourself by comparison.

I write as one who doesn’t live this way. Not really. There are moments of beauty but far more moments of harshness and entitlement. There are moments I’ve rescued others with lavish grace that surprised even me and moments when I’ve muttered cuss words and condemnation over said forgotten lunches.

Yet He continues to use me. And I don’t think it’s coincidence that He uses me when my own efforts have been lackluster. That chance conversation with a friend? It came after not having had a quiet time for days and lots of traveling and missing church and too much stress and feeling far away from God.

I read an e-mail just this week from a reader who had stumbled across my blog and scanned a post I wrote months ago. She said she’d found hope here. Not because I’m doing a stellar job of cranking out regular posts and prioritizing writing like I should. This is my first published post here in weeks. But I cried as I read her e-mail because this is God’s work, not mine. I simply show up. He takes care of the rest.

petals

When will I ever learn that it’s not about my own efforts toward righteousness? It’s about the One who is perfectly righteous, the One who perfectly met the requirements, the One who continues to act justly and to love mercy. The One who came and lived and died in a perfect posture of humility. The One who came back to life in order that we might have life and that all things can be made new.

Jesus is with me as the living God. He is the sovereign king over my life. And as He reigns in my little kingdom, we show up together in ways that feel mostly mundane to me but that matter to him. Not because I’m accumulating tally marks but because He simply delights in me.

Of all the things we’re called to do as Christians, being impressive isn’t one of them. We came up with that ourselves. And I for one am tired of the American church’s obsession with impressive Christians. Can we just stop it already?

God’s kingdom is in the sandwich-making and the speech-making. It’s in the nooks and crannies of middle-class suburbia and high-rise big city. It’s in Bible study and biology. It’s in the late-night stories and the Hospice care hand-holding. It’s in the bottom-wiping and the table-cleaning {though hopefully not in that order.}   : )

Because if God is everywhere, then He calls people everywhere. The ministers aren’t more important in his kingdom than the mothers.

This world is his and from the beginning, He’s asked us to take dominion, to cultivate richness and beauty and knowledge and relationship from the fields and the fairways to the boardrooms and the classrooms.

barn

Wherever we are, God is. We show up and his love spills out. Disagree all you want but I’ve come to believe that it’s this simple and also this difficult.

Overflowing with the love of Christ isn’t something we manufacture; it’s something we receive. We know that we’re loved not because of anything we do. God knows our propensity to find security in our own righteousness and efforts. It’s why he reminds us of this:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works so that no man can boast. {Ephesians 2:8-9}

Whether it’s a pastor’s voice or the refrain of your own familiar inner task-master, when any voice accuses you of not doing enough as a Christian, here’s a response:

“Agreed. I’m not doing enough. The bad news is, I can never do enough. The good news is, I don’t have to.” 

“Doing enough” is life under the law and the law is powerless to save anyone.

God’s ways are holy and beautiful and we can’t fully look upon them without trembling. To think that we can lasso the law — whether the God-made kind or the man-made kind — and live it out perfectly takes a rather high view of ourselves and a rather low view of God’s perfect ways.

Christ left the riches of Heaven to make his home on the dusty roads of Earth. He is the only one who has ever done enough and once his work was completed, He cried out, “It is finished!”

He is the perfect fulfillment of the law that is God-written on the most feeble tablet of all — the human heart.

It’s unfathomable really. And now, He makes his home in us. It means that when we show up, He shows up. The One who is enough on our behalf, the One who multiplies our scant offerings and feeds a multitude, even if that multitude is just a bunch of hungry kids gathered around my kitchen table.

If you’re a bit broken-down under the weight of expectation and comparison, might I invite you to look up so that I can look you in the eyes and say this to your face?

If you are in Christ, your life is enough. You are not necessarily called to go where someone else has gone or to live the life someone else is living.

You are called to receive your own life, to show up with the love and light of Christ, whatever and whomever the day brings. Trust not in your enough-ness but in the finished work and life-giving power of Christ alone.

 

Simply show up. And know that it counts.

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Two Life Lessons I Learned in the 45 Minutes it Took Me to Write This Post

desk horiz

Writing, for me, is like a sacrament. And going too long without it leads to feeling rather malnourished on a soul level. The days have ticked by and I haven’t written here.

Restless and scattered, my soul has been without one good exhale since I don’t know when. Sometimes the days are too full of lists and demands and busy-ness that you never asked for. And some that you did. And then those days turn into weeks. And then that heavy weight that sits on your chest every so often just sits there all the time.

I crave soul rest but when given the opportunity to partake of it, even in a small way, I’m prone to saying no. Instead I leap in the direction of productivity or looking at the to-do list again or spinning my wheels in something that seems productive but that is actually ridiculousness. Or something that I know is not in any way productive and is straight up ridiculousness. {I’m looking at you bobbibrown.com and your dreamy makeup that I covet and pretend shop for. And also at you vintage brown leather purses on ebay.}

Like an addict, I run from what I need and cozy up into the lap of what I want. I find instant almost-gratification {since the shopping is still pretend, whatiswrongwithme?} but no actual renewal.

When life presses in, our real coping mechanisms spill out.

Yesterday I told a friend that I feel afraid of the future that’s right around the bend — one kid in high school, one in middle school, one in elementary school.

I’m afraid of the demands that I’m already struggling to meet and how those will only increase.

I’m afraid of failure — mine and theirs.

I’m afraid of so many expectations.

I’m afraid my to-do list will murder me in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping.

I’m afraid that I will have no rest.

I’m afraid we’ll never sell our house and move.

I’m afraid we will sell our house and move.

I’m afraid of how certain others feel about me.

I’m afraid of really and truly becoming a crazy person who rants in customer service lines and spends all of her real time spending pretend money on pretend make-up.

And just seeing all of these words right here on the screen, one “I’m afraid” after the other — well, the tears well up out of nowhere and I remember that this is why I write. Writing dredges up the deep stuff of the soul that I can’t articulate, not even for myself. Ninety something percent of the time I show up here and I don’t know what will come out but something always does and it’s always the truth of the matter.

So when I say that my soul can’t find rest because life is too busy, I’m really saying that I’m afraid. I’m just afraid.

Busyness isn’t the primary reason for my breathlessness. Fear is. And that’s why I can’t find rest. I’m too busy hooking up with fear. And Fear feels a lot like a big mean guy holding a cattle-prod and chasing after me.

There’s this simple line from Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily Freeman. It came to me the other day and it comes to me again now:

Fear drives. But love leads.

Two things I learned since I started this post. 1. I’m not living loved. I’m living driven. 2. I’m not writing enough.

I have to make time for it even if it kills me. Because not making time for it? Also kills me. I am actually writing as part of my job. But it’s not “writing the real” like I do here.

I don’t have a neat and tidy end to this post. But today is my birthday and I simply needed to show up and give myself this gift — a post about busyness and not writing and fear and pretend makeup shopping.

Writing is not everyone’s thing. It’s not even most people’s thing. But I bet you have something that gets at the heart of the matter for you — a practice, a person, or a place that invites the unclear forms to take shape and the fears to be named and the soul to be soothed.

This weekend, I give you the gift of permission. Permission to take some time and tend to your insides, even if it’s just for a bit, instead of tending to all of the other things that call {or scream} for your attention.

As for me, I plan to do some more writing. And sip an iced macchiato or three. And pay a long-awaited visit to the actual Bobbi Brown counter for a complimentary makeover.

I realize that I just went from soulful to superficial in half a second. It’s my birthday. Don’t judge.

I’m curious. What’s your “thing?” Your practice, person, place, or whatever that brings clarity, confession, and comfort? 

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