day 24 | On being young

There’s been a thing on my heart – so here it is.

Being a twenty-something is absurdly transitional. Some days I feel like I’m waiting for my real life to start. I’m stuck in this place where I can actually remember when the class of 2015 was born and I’m going a bit gray, but I haven’t really started my career and my mom does my taxes.

In fairness, my mom is a CPA and does a lot of people’s taxes, but that’s not the point.

I’m a Millennial, which carries a stigma of entitlement, laziness, and self-involved idiocy; a society in which everyone gets a trophy for participation and no one understands how the world works. I don’t feel like that describes me, but maybe that’s just my entitled, lazy, self-involved idiocy showing. The cultural attitude results in animosity toward a generation simply because they are young. The enmity ranges from mild disappointment to overt antagonism..

I find this phenomenon most disheartening within the church. The fire of young Christians gets snuffed out by those who provide judgement, instead of wisdom and teaching. Revolutionaries are broken down by the weight of tradition and sameness. As it has always been, newness breeds fear and that fear leads to the dismissal of new ideas.

What happens to societies that refuse to embrace new ideas? They die.

In the case of the church, hostility toward millennials doesn’t just dry up a source of life within the body, it alienates an entire generation. In a world already dominated by secularism and relativistic morality, is it really good idea to cast off the young, because of their age? A generation facing a society of warfare, a terrifying economy, and a government we no longer trust, is searching for something real and good. A place to belong.

I am not a member of a perfect generation. I do not have all the answers. I don’t even know most of the questions. But I won’t be told that my opinion lacks value because I haven’t put in the time.

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day 14 | Climbing Kilimanjaro

I get deeply invested in (read: obsessed with) Vacation Bible School. 2015 marks my 5th consecutive year as the Pre-Primary Director (3-5 year olds). During my tenure, I’ve learned more than a few things about coordinating a week’s worth of lessons, crafts, and activities. To get through the week without pulling my hair out, organization is the key.

All a girl needs is a really organized binder, a large coffee, a pinch of faith, and a Master Plan.

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1) Master Plan: I start in Microsoft Excel and make a skeleton that holds all the information I need. Then I fill in each section, and when it’s done, I have a plan for the week! Of course, you know what they say, “A plan is a point from which to deviate.”

Isn’t it glorious?

Times are listed and the shaded box is to remind me that Thursday is Water Day (dun dun duhhhhh) which means chaos will erupt. I keep a copy of the plan in the binder and post additional copies around the classrooms so that my helpers can easily see what the next activity will be.

20150514_1055112) The curriculum book is full of all kinds of awesome things, but the workbook style of it makes it hard to organize. I spent way too much time flipping through the pages trying to stay on the right day. To solve this problem, I pulled out my handy-dandy paper-cutter, removed the staples from the binding, and sliced the pages free.

3) Order is key! This is how my binder is set up.

Master Plan
VBS Rules Sheet
Parent Info Sheet
Curriculum Book Intro Pages

Day Divider (5 total)
Coloring Sheet Master Copies
Daily Puppet Script
Discovery Center and Craft Cards
Daily Curriculum

4) Parent Communication is a huge part of our success. Between our “No Parents” policy and getting ready for water day, we have a lot to explain! I can’t be sure that in the craziness, I’ll get face to face time with each parent, so we send home announcements with the kids. Here’s my cute African themed sheet for this year!

VBS-Parents

This way, I can circumvent some of the my-kid-isn’t-prepared-because-you-didn’t-tell-me nonsense. I do get parents who are offended that they can’t sit with little Johnny or Susie in class and let me know that they’ll go where they please. A very diplomatic, “I understand, but my primary job is to ensure the safety of all of our campers, including Johnny/Susie,” usually cuts it. If not, I can bring out the big guns with, “I understand if you need to remove your Johnny/Susie from the class, but these are the rules, and they aren’t going to change.

A new strategy for the ones that think it’s cool to yell at me comes from my sweet friend Kristi, “Okay, but you’re yelling. Why don’t we talk about it?”

5) This year, I’m trying something new. For each Discovery Center and Craft, I made a card that has the instructions and all the necessary materials. This way, I can just hand them off to a helper and there is no need to micromanage everything that’s happening in my classroom! I formatted them in Microsoft word, and printed them on cardstock for durability.

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We hold these “truths”…

I need to talk to you about something. The Spirit, He’s a-proddin’, and I can’t seem to type fast enough to get my thoughts poured out. A couple friends of mine shared an article on Facebook from Relevant Magazine entitled 7 Unbiblical Statements Christians Believe. It outlines a few of the fairy tales we’ve constructed because we like to believe in happily ever after.

I’d like to add a couple “truths” as well.

1) God put me in this place because He needs me to do His work.

Sentiments like this are prolific throughout Christian culture, using Esther 4:14 as evidence. The verse is often quoted: “You have come (or, have been called) to this place for such a time as this.” Here’s the thing, dear ones – THAT’S NOT WHAT IT SAYS. Try again:

Such a timeFor if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 ESV) 

Mordecai is trying to convince his cousin to risk her life to prevent genocide. But Mordecai does not assume that Esther is, coincidentally, the only person on Earth who can prevent the horrific extermination of a people group. He tells her that God doesn’t need her, that help will arise from somewhere else if she is unwilling to stand. He basically tells her that she has an opportunity to be part of God’s plan, or she doesn’t have to, but the plan remains unaffected.

What hubris to assume God needs us for anything. He does us a favor by allowing us to take part in His work, not the other way around.

2) God will send you your husband when you least expect it/when you stop asking/when you are committed to Him/when you are [lame qualifier].

How many times have your married friends (who somehow assume they are the authority on marriage now) told you that, in so many words, that God is withholding your spouse from you until you complete some kind of checklist? HOW MANY TIMES? Married people, I know assume you mean well, but do you know what you’re doing? You are nurturing an entire culture of single Christians who believe that they can’t find “the one” because there is something wrong with them, despite seeing unsaved (and vastly less qualified) people fill up their news feed with wedding and baby photos. So we start to wonder, what kind of God would provide a mate for those people, and ignore my silent (and not so silent) pleas? It just seems cruel.

Then you look at us and remind us about Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart.” Cool, I can totally buy that. You know what I don’t see?

If, and only if, you delight yourself in the Lord in the manner approved by your married (and infinitely wise) fellow Christians, then He will give you every single desire of your heart, but only if you don’t want them anymore, because God doesn’t give you things until you stop wanting them.” (The Gospel of Syllogism 17:8)

As John Green has reminded us, “The world is not a wish-granting factory,” and neither is the God I serve.

*end rant*

Monday Musings: of eyeliner overload and Easter weekend…

1) I’ve talked a little about being a Mary Kay consultant, but I haven’t harped on it, mostly to create boundaries in my life. I’m not really trying to use this platform to promote that business (though if you’re interested, by all means, hit me up *wink wink*)

onewoman-headerRegardless, I have a funny story and I want to tell it, so deal. Mmkay, pumpkins?

My neighbor, Maureen, called me the other day. A call from her isn’t the most unusual thing in the world, but it was a little out of the blue. After some pleasantries, she got down to business.

Maureen: Listen, you, ah, do Mary Kay, right?
Me: um, yeah…?
Maureen: Do you have any eyeliner in Bronze?
Me: …

Now, let me explain. I’ve known Maureen for just about 19 years and I think I’ve seen her wear makeup a grand total of zero times. Not a stitch, let alone a specific color of a specific brand of eyeliner. Turns out, the makeup wasn’t for her, but for her mother who was in a panic because the company decided to discontinue that particular color and she was trying to stockpile a supply before they ran out. Maureen informs me that her mother wants as many of them as she can get.

$300 later, I think she’ll be good for a bit. Sometimes, it pays to pick up the phone.

2) This is Holy Week for those that celebrate such things and Sunday is Easter. I’m not really a Holy Week girl, but Easter is a pretty big deal. I think it’s really interesting that despite the holiday’s religious origin, Easter seems to have gained a fair amount of commercial success, unlike most holidays that the early church repurposed from pagan traditions (Christmas shouldn’t be in December, just saying). What started as a strictly religious and fairly complicated holiday has turned into the unofficial start or spring with its frilly dresses, plastic eggs, and frightening anthropomorphic lagomorphs.

134abcd331ab1f4dc9be107e34e83ddcHave I mentioned that I fear people in animal costumes? No? Well, there you go. And clowns. *Shiver*

I’ve not been shy about my faith in this blog. I’ve not tried to hide my Christianity from you. I’ve neither pretended that being a Christian gives me all the answers or implied that I’m anything other than a thoroughly imperfect person in constant need of the grace of God. I’ve also not shoved Him down your throat. I can’t make you believe in God any more than I can make you believe in sunlight. I think it’s pretty obvious, but if you can’t see it, you’re probably living in the dark. However, in the spirit of the season and with the weight of the immense sacrifice that was made for you and me and everyone else, I would like to personally invite you to step into the light.

Not my circus…

Words are a gift. There is beauty in turns of phrase, in the construction of sentences, in the rise and fall of pitch and the specificity of tone. Words can build up or tear down. They are layered with meaning, weighted with subtext. They can be playful in puns, irony, and double entendre, or forceful with interjections and imperative phrases. I love them.

I trade in words. As a blogger, teacher, beauty consultant, words are the tools of my profession(s). Choosing the right words can be the difference between a student with tears of frustration and the sparkle of achievement. In my blogs, it is the crafting of prose that catches and keeps the attention of my readers. My words are for other people and I am ever so aware of their potential to be encouraging or damaging.

So I hide. In order to preserve the well-being of others, I hide my true feelings, my true pain. I fear the impact that my hurt could have on others and I allow myself to be crushed under the weight of that responsibility.

But it isn’t my responsibility. It isn’t my job to take care of everyone except me. With the help of Moriah over at Untidy Grace, I now have a constant admonishment right on my wall. It’s my job to live honestly, which means I have to stop being afraid that the revelation of my true self will result in judgement or rejection.

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Moriah’s beautiful prints are available either on black or white cardstock with contrasting ink and measure 12″x 12″. Because they ship rolled, you may need to turn the piece over and weigh it down with a book for a day before displaying. Each piece is hand-lettered and customized with the quote or verse of your choosing. They can be framed, but are just as lovely as a stand alone piece. I used poster tack to hang mine, and the black contrasts beautifully against my yellow walls.

I was so excited with my print came in the mail that I immediately sent Moriah a Facebook message letting her know how beautiful it was. Apparently, she loved it too and almost kept it for herself!

You can find Untidy Grace on Etsy to order your print, a steal at $10, and check out Moriah’s blog!


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received a free print in exchange for my review of Untidy Grace. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. See the Legal page for more information.


Come as you were…

I was driving to church on Sunday, running late, of course. I can blame the lateness a little on the time change, but mostly it is the eternal battle between my vanity and my desire to sleep just a few more minutes. Though I wish I were more punctual, I come from a long and austere legacy of dawdlers, piddlers, and people who underestimate how long it takes to get places. We talk about “Alger Time” in my family, and we aren’t being factious.

It’s just who I am.


(Funny aside: David can be a bit, um, let’s go with despotic and fairly rigid on how things ought to beHe is not, however, exempt from Alger Time. So, while punctuality is not his forte, woe to the one who keeps him waiting. This is what we call situational irony, children. As his baby sister, I like to be late on purpose to see what happens. Shhhh, don’t tell!)


FantasticButterfly31-610x320Anyway, I get to church, just in time to begin sound-check. We (the praise band) were having an off day; our drummer was out of town and we couldn’t seem to get our act together. The sound team was struggling and we were all feeling the missing hour.

And then I heard it. A request made and denied. A call for compromise rejected. The reason? That’s just how I am. 

Wait a minute…

When did that become okay? When did we start accepting our flaws as fact, citing a birthright of bullheadedness? At what point did we decide to stop becoming better?

There is mercy and grace and rest and peace to be found at the foot of the cross. We are invited to come as we are to partake in the blessings. We’re also instructed to be like Christ.

Come as you are, but don’t stay that way.

We’ve only just begun…

Today would have been my parents’ 39th anniversary.

Mom and Dad WeddingOn an unseasonably warm day in February, 1976, she finally finished hemming her wedding dress before standing with him in front of their family and friends and declaring to love, honor, and cherish each other for the rest of their lives. They exchanged rings, yellow gold for him, antiqued white gold for her, and she forgot to retrieve her bouquet from her Matron of Honor, so my Aunt Marlene had to wrestle two huge sprays back down the aisle (they were enormous, no joke). As a little girl, I flipped through the pages of their wedding album, coveting their happiness.

When my dad died, I felt as if the ground under my feet gave way; nothing seemed real, nothing seemed permanent. I wondered if I’d ever really known my dad, or if he’d just been this stranger with whom I coexisted for a couple of decades.  There are so many questions I have for him, so many things I’ll never really understand.

Here’s something I do know: my parents’ marriage was real. My father was a hurting and broken man, but his love for my mom was absolute.

After his funeral, we took home a box of extra programs, papers, and cards from flower arrangements, along with random notions from the funeral home. At the bottom of the box was a small, black, draw-string bag that contained that same gold band he slipped on in 1976. It called out to me, a beacon of hope in a world that made no sense  — their love was real.

I wear that gold band on the middle finger of my left hand. Every time I see it, I’m reminded that in a world of things that seem unstable, there are absolute truths: the grace of God, the pain of stepping on a Lego, and the love of a young couple in a Methodist church in Fairmont, WV, 39 years ago.

Monday Musings: of reluctant obedience, a serious question, and a broken heart…

1) I’m stubborn. This is not news.

PromptingI also crave order and systems. In that spirit, I like to plan out my time, even if the plan then goes adorably awry. A couple of days per week, I have a gap in the middle of my day that I devote to computer work: this blog, homework, bills, and things of the like. It’s a period of time with a defined ending point, as I have students at 3 and I literally have nothing else that I can be doing.  So far, it’s been pretty effective.

I’ve been feeling compelled to write out my testimony. A year ago, our pastor challenged everyone to write it out and email it to him, but I didn’t do it. I’m just a rebel like that. I had all but forgotten about the task until the past couple of weeks, when I have been on the receiving end of the not so gentle prodding of the Spirit to complete my assignment. The other day, we came to an impasse; I resisted, He pushed. As I set up with my computer to get some blogging done, I couldn’t get it to connect to the internet.

Rude.

A whisper in the back of my mind told me that this would give me plenty of time to write out my testimony.

Grrrrr. Fine.

1,312 words later, the internet connection came back in time to send off my tome to my pastor.

I guess we know who’s sovereign here.

2) Which brings me to a serious question. It’s been suggested to me that I should publish my testimony here, but I pause. Besides its inherently personal nature, it’s also really, really long. In context, this post is 514 words, roughly 40% of the length. I hesitate, but if you’d be interested in reading my story, let me know and I may pluck up my courage.

3) It’s taken me 13 days to steel myself for this announcement. After a little more than 3 months together, I’ve been dumped.

Take a second, I know I needed one.

Learn SomethingYou can be sure that I’ll have more to say on the topic as soon as my head stops spinning. At this point, I’m nursing a broken heart and trying to just get through this season of my life. I’m doing much better than I was 13 days ago, but I’m far from over it. I’ve made a habit of being honest with you, my sweet readers, and this is no different. I am hurting. Grief is grief and loss is loss and I’m facing the second major heartache in my life in under 6 months. And it sucks.

I’m reminded of a song by Ginny Owens that I sang for church this past fall:

“The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear
and I don’t know the reason why you brought me here.
But just because you love me, the way that you do
I’m gonna walk through the valley if you want me too.”

Friends keep telling me that I’m strong enough to make it through this.

I’m not, but I know someone who is.

My [Fill in the Blank] Life

I know a woman who I can describe in one word: fabulous.  Two words:  deeply fabulous.

Spearls-flower-girls-little-boys-pinteresthe lives a glamorous life full of shiny things and pretty cars and lots of people surrounding her who remind her that she is fabulous.  She makes her living selling the dream of her lifestyle to other people. I’m not hating on her, not at all.  She has worked incredibly hard to become successful enough to achieve and maintain this lifestyle and I would never want to imply that she is anything less than she truly is.  She is amazing, smart, funny (sometimes), beautiful, and kind.  She has been an inspiration to me and to a lot of people and I owe her more than I can say.

I just don’t want her life.

Is that wrong? Should I wish for a life of luxury? I’d like to be comfortable, don’t get me wrong. It would be awesome to get out from under the student loan debt and car payments that are constantly on my mind. It would be super to never wonder if there is going to be too much month and not enough income, to stop doing a mental calculation every time a client cancels. I love my life, but I won’t be upset when this transitional season is over.

Descriptive WordsAnyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of the one word biography. The whole of your existence summarized in one single word. What would your word be? What would the people who know you best say about you?

Would they be drawn to your kindness or generosity, or would they only highlight the negativity you exude? I’ll be honest, I’m almost afraid to know what word people would use to describe me.  I know that I am a trophy of grace, a freely forgiven and redeemed daughter of the Most High God, but is that how I live my life? Do I exude the kind of grace and mercy that was shown to me?

Do you?