If You’re a Little Scared to Be in a Room Full of Women

IMG_0782

The crisp air shook me wide awake that velvet black night my friend and I walked into Sally Clarkson’s house for her Christmas tea. I didn’t know anyone except Sally (a little) and the friend who brought me. Most of the women in attendance were homeschooling moms and members of her monthly Bible study. I was neither, but I didn’t let that stop me enjoying some delicious food in a warm, relaxed setting.

As the evening progressed and my friend mingled with others, I nibbled desserts and looked for a place to sit for Sally’s devotional. Since there was no room in the living room, I sat next to people I didn’t know on her spiral staircase overlooking the living room. I made small talk with a few but didn’t really click with anyone new. When Sally began her lesson, I curled up comfortably with her words and felt genuine encouragement reach all the corners of my soul. Later that night as my friend and I drove away, I felt satisfied and content. The evening could have been ripe with awkwardness, but I had an enjoyable time.

Let me tell you something, however: This isn’t always how I feel after leaving a group of women. Sometimes I leave feeling more like I’ve been to a funeral than a party, part of my confidence dying right along with my good time.

And I’m tired of it.

I’ve spent nearly 20 years as a military wife, and I can’t begin to count all the social situations I’ve bloomed and withered during. I’ve been in rooms full of familiar women and never-met-before women. Extroverts and introverts. Older mentors and younger mentees. Easy going people and military brass. Sometimes my conversations flow easily and I get along beautifully with folks. Sometimes I don’t gel with them at all, so I scoot toward the peripheral and suddenly become captivated by the pictures on the wall or the contents of my purse. Other times I feel downright awkward and keep checking to see if I have toilet paper hanging out of my skirt. Or maybe a little broccoli in my teeth.

This is nothing unusual; we all experience uncomfortable social settings from time to time. But here is where I get into trouble: When I don’t click with others or feel “at home” in a room,  I sometimes turn inward and convince myself  I must be a problem of the loser variety. Not only is this a straight up lie, it’s a poor choice guaranteed to steal my good time and confidence.

Has anybody been there but me?

When we give into all those inward thoughts, we might believe it’s best to hole up in our homes or hotel rooms or hearts. But doing this guarantees we’re traveling to an isolated, dangerous part of town that keeps us looking inward rather than outward.

IMG_6745

God desires for us to walk in the knowledge that we are dearly loved and already treasured. And heaven knows I want to rally behind all His glorious desires for me rather than raise a roadblock. So, whether you’re about to attend a conference, a PTO meeting, or your friend’s wedding, don’t get lost in no man’s land. Instead, remember these things for a healthier perspective:

1. Pray Yourself Up Before You Leave and While You’re There. Before the wheels of my van leave the driveway or the wheels of the plane leave the runway, I’m already asking God to protect my heart from the Enemy’s suggestions while fortifying it with His truth.I repeat Colossians 2:17 to myself  “…the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Your reality is in Him, and He says you are completely worthy, talented, loved, and wanted today. If anything else snakes its way into your thoughts, take it to Jesus. That is the only way to see yourself not overly or underly, but in reality.

2. We’re all small. We all need Jesus to bridge the gap between ourselves and God. Everyone does, including that conference speaker, the PTO president, and the business CEO.

3. Your attendance has purpose. It isn’t random but a divinely scheduled appointment. God places us in strategic places at strategic times, and He is using your presence there for your good.

The next time you’re in a room full of women, refuse to arm wrestle the enemy over your identity. Don’t hand him your confidence. Walk with purpose and your head held high because no matter how completely comfortable or uncomfortable you feel, you are complete in Christ.

With or without the toilet paper or broccoli.

For All the Late Bloomers

IMG_4864

The lilacs are blooming in Colorado now.

In June, people.

June.

My brain tells me that is ridiculously late because in the rest of the country – and in most other places I’ve lived – lilacs bloomed two months ago. But the truth is for this mountainous town that sits 7,000 ft. above sea level, they bloomed right on time.

Not long ago a friend and I were talking about our awkward teenage years, and she asked me when I bloomed. While this could translate into different answers depending on the specific topic, I told her in general, it was around 35.

Give or take a year.

We all bloom, but we all do it against a timetable of one. In the physical sense, this is easy for me to remember.

But when it comes to talents, gifts, and callings? Oh, how I forget.

Sometimes, I see other people’s talents blooming in all their lavender glory, and I wonder when my own brown patch of earth will show some hints of green. I sit down, chin propped on hands and wonder when my drought will end.

If you’re waiting on this Wednesday, remember often it’s not if growth comes, but when.

“May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!”  ~1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 The Message

God promises to make everything holy and whole, to put you together. He sees the environment where you live and knows that blossoming too early means short-lived blooms. God imprints on your soul all kind of beauty and gifts, and He knows the best time for them to burst forth.

All you can do is water the ground and wait, remembering you aren’t waiting in a time of drought but a time of finding out.

And a time of seeing how the Giver of All Good Things graciously prepares, divinely cares, and wholly loves.

If you are a military wife *or* a woman in transition, maybe this would bless you?

I’m traveling with my favorite four, so I won’t be posting much these next couple of weeks. I look forward to seeing you again regularly afterwards! Happy June, friends!

 

The Sweet Truth About Your Tears

 IMG_3854

I’m sightseeing at Panera’s glass covered bakery when I see her out of the corner of my eye. She turns from her laptop to the window as she gracefully swipes tears from her face.

I turn back to my panoramic view of desserts and order a cinnamon roll.

My thoughts roll back to the girl and her tears. I enjoy people watching (especially at places like airports and restaurants) and hypothesizing about the lives of others. I’ve seen Spanish royalty, Hollywood actors, CIA operatives, and mini-van driving mamas like me.

Or at least, I might have.

I find myself doing the same with this darling woman as she stares out the window. I don’t know what’s bothering her, but whatever it is, her heavy heart leaks tears.

Did she have a fight with her husband?

Did she get a rejection letter from a hopeful employer?

Did she take a pregnancy test and it read negative? Or positive?

Did she see a news story she just can’t forget?

Whatever causes her tears, does she know they’re seen?

Do you know it? Because this is true: Your pain matters because your heart matters.

“It’s the quantum physics of God: one broken heart always breaks God’s in two.  We never cry alone.”  

~Ann Voskamp

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10). We never cry alone because God is a part of us, so He can’t help but care.

And like a dusty, forgotten gift card found in a drawer, I find a gift that proves my pain matters because I matter, and it’s all seen by the One who never leaves my side.

Your tears are meaningful because your worth is undeniable.

Your identity is unshakeable.

Because His love for you is unfathomable.

May you hold these sweet truths close to your heart today.

Love Thy Military {or Civilian} Neighbor

To my fellow military spouses: Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day! Thanks to all of you who serve and sacrifice quietly in the shadows. You may not feel like it, but you are brave heroes, warrior world-changers, and tender heart-holders. You are my family away from family, and I love you.

{I’m working on a surprise for you that will be available at the end of the month. Stay tuned!}

If you find yourself living in the same neighborhood as a military family, maybe today is a good day to shower some extra love on them? Below are a few ideas that are never expected but always appreciated.

And really, these are good ways to love on any neighbor, military or civilian.

IMG_0931

{Download a free printable of this from my original post.}

1. Ask her over for dinner. Being the only grown-up in a house gets lonely, so hanging with other adults is nice. If your schedule permits, make it routine {i.e. Invite her for dinner every Sunday or coffee every Tuesday}. FYI: she’ll be focusing on your company, not your house.

2. Bring dinner to her house. Even just a casserole she can put in the freezer is so helpful and awesome.

3. Offer her your contact information. Give her permission to call or email you if she needs something.

4. Grocery shop. If you’re making a grocery or Target run, ask her if she needs anything.

5. Take out the trash. If her trash and/or recycle receptacles are outside, take them to the curb for her.

6. Offer to babysit. Be specific. If she knows you well, offer to take her kids with you on a playdate. It doesn’t have to be for long. Just having an hour or two to exhale on her own feels like a Christmas miracle.

7. Bring over a plate of cookies. Attach a note with the names of your family members and contact information. The baked goods don’t have to be homemade. {Sometimes I buy these instead.} She is just moved by the gesture.

8. Help with home improvement. Many spouses have the urge to do house projects while on the home front. So much of the military lifestyle is out of their control, so home improvement projects help them feel in control. Help her paint a room or pick out curtains. {I picked up a drill for the first time and helped a friend with a deployed husband install bathroom tile.} Even something as simple as helping her pick up/change lightbulbs is appreciated.

9. Swap movies, books, and magazines. Let her borrow your Netflix movies and return them for you.

10. Bring her a Starbucks treat just because. It’s more about showing up and checking in than about the treat.

11. Send her a card. It’s easy for military spouses to feel ignored, so this always makes her day. Also, DaySpring has some lovely e-card options.

12. Invite her to participate in things. Even if she can’t make it the first few times, don’t quit asking.

13. Refer her to your people. If you have a hair dresser or a dentist you like, ask her if she would like their name(s). My neighbors are often the best source for where to go to get what done.

14. Give her the gift of green. Potted flowers in the summer, stems from the grocery in the winter. They brighten her home and her mood.

15. Encourage her. Look for something specific she’s doing well and brag on her to her face.

16. Give her yard a helping hand. Mow or edge her lawn.

17. Remember her birthday.  Surprise her with a card or a piece of cake.

18. Remember her on holidays. Give her a card for Mother’s Day. Invite her over for Thanksgiving dinner.

19. Follow through. If you tell her you’ll do something for her, be a woman of your word.

20. Pray for her strength, her marriage, her kids. It is the least and the most you can do.

What would you add to the list?

For the Mamas and Mama-Mentors {Free Printable!}

IMG_9956

Every so often, as my almost-taller-than-me children and I cruise the aisles at the grocery store or Target, some sweet soul will notice one of my sons sporting his favorite Maui t-shirt. They want to know: Did you vacation there recently?  Once they find out we lived there, they follow-up with the same question: What’s that like?? But given the drive-by nature of grocery store encounters, we have to answer in a way that sums it all up.

So, one of us usually gives an answer along the lines of,

“It had it’s highs and lows, but we wouldn’t trade our time there for anything!”

It’s a whole lot easier to say this than go into all the details.

When I think of all that encompasses our lives as a Mama, I think the same words pretty much sum up our job title.

“It has its highs and lows, but we wouldn’t trade our time there for anything!”

Mom's Day flower

 free printable version here

If you would like a little extra something special to give your own mama or mama-mentor in your life, maybe print this off and place it in a frame or card for her?

Mama: Such a simple word for such a busy calling.

Much love to all the mamas, aunts, friends, and mentors out there who freely and generously invest in others.

Enjoy your day, friends!

When You Want to See Yourself More Clearly

IMG_4139

He finds me in the kitchen stirring jambalaya and adding parsley to the crockpot bowl. He sidles up next to me and almost whispers it,

“Guess what happened today, Mama?”

I turn to find his eyes flickering warmth like a good spring day and ask, “What happened today?”

“Well, I showed some of my drawings to my friend Harry, and he liked them! He said he thought I was a really good artist.”

I smile big and answer, “Well, that’s because you are a very good artist!”

He gives me a look that says You have to say that because you’re my Mama.

No son, I say it because it’s true. But perhaps it’s more expected that Mama-me would say it. It’s not expected from others, and I think that’s what makes it exciting. I see this written all over his handsome little face: Kind encouragement from others wipe the grime and dust from our own mirror showing us a more genuine, beautiful picture of ourselves.

It makes the real us feel known.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I am known in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  ~1 Corinthians 13:12

God knows us fully, right down to the dustiest corners of our heart. We rest in this always because He loves us always. But sometimes, He surprises us by dropping unexpected encouragement into our laps from other folks, the kind of encouragement that can turn an inheritance of grief into an inheritance of grace. The kind that surprises us by helping us see ourselves more accurately.

Recently I read a beautiful, poignant memoir called The Artist’s Daughter by Alexandra Kuykendall. I met Alex at Allume last fall and then again in Denver a couple weeks ago. She is honest, genuine, and pure delight – all qualities that dance in her lovely writing.

In The Artist’s Daughter, Alex writes of her childhood as the daughter of a single doting mother and a famous Spanish artist who was not regularly involved in her life. While I have no idea what it’s like to grow up without a father, I can identify with wounds caused by disappointing realities and wishing for different, of wanting to be fully known as only God sees. And really, who couldn’t?

IMG_4491

IMG_4486

Alex writes of how she learned to turn an inheritance of grief into one of grace, and what this looks like in herself, her marriage, and her mothering. It is a compelling story that touches tender places relevant to my life and probably yours, too.

Because I loved it so much, I’m {surprise!} giving away one copy to one person who links up *or* comment below. I will draw a winner from the total link-ups and comments and announce that winner on the blog next week. But if you don’t want to wait for your own copy of The Artist’s Daughter, you may now find it here or here.

May it bless you as wildly as it blessed me.

Giveaway copy generously provided by Revell.

If you are sharing your own surprise story, here are some things to remember:

1. New to link-up’s or have questions? Read this first.

2. Since we all dig surprises, please surprise another writer by leaving a comment on her post *or* by giving her a facebook shout-out or tweet. Use the hashtag: #outoftheblue. 

3. Be sure to include the out of the blue banner {see below} in your post or link back to Chasing Blue Skies so your readers can join in the fun. That way, we can all easily find each other. 

Next week’s prompt: A memory of spring that surprises you! I’ll just tell you right now mine might have something to do with all the springtime snow we’ve seen. {Hello, 2 hour school delay on May 2nd!} I look forward to reading how your own unexpected surprise story of spring increased your joy or made a difference in your life!



Because Darth Vader Isn’t the Boss of Me

IMG_4245

We stood in her kitchen talking when she made a remark aimed straight for my jugular. White knuckled, my hands grasped the countertop so I wouldn’t shake from the hit.

Sometimes words speak just as loud as actions. Words can dice a heart into a thousand pieces and no matter how you curl inward, you can’t hold them all.

When I drove home later that afternoon, I watched as the road turned to liquid and I felt myself travel down a too familiar street:

A good friend: F

Kristen’s grown-up report card: F, F, F.

My how quickly my mind gets lost in a dangerous part of town, the part of town where voices sounding like Darth Vader and Voldemort stir up trouble. But as I pull into the garage, I tell myself:

Ya know, Kristen, you don’t have to let Darth Vader be the boss of you. 

That’s true, but I’m going to need more than platitudes to get me on the right road again. So I get out my sword and say the Word out loud,

“We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” ~2 Corinthians 10:5-6  The Message

When I rest all my thoughts in Jesus, I find myself in a much better place.

Jesus is alive and in Him is my joy and I remember the purpose of living a Christ-filled life is to walk in the power of His resurrection. So dang it, I’m gonna walk like I mean it. I repent when I need to repent but I’m not defined by my sins or other people’s opinions, good or bad.

I took this picture of my sons’ Darth Vader Easter eggs just before he carefully but swiftly knocked them into his Easter basket. One quick movement with his hand and they were gone. So when I see this picture, I am reminded how with one swift move of my hand, I can open the Word and quiet the voices.

And surprise: Darth Vader really isn’t the boss of me.

If you are sharing your own surprise story behind a photo, here are some things to remember:

1. New to link-up’s or have questions? Read this first.

2. Since we all dig surprises, please surprise another writer by leaving a comment on her post *or* by giving her a facebook shout-out or tweet. Use the hashtag: #outoftheblue. 

3. Be sure to include the out of the blue banner {see below} in your post or link back to Chasing Blue Skies so your readers can join in the fun. That way, we can all easily find each other.

Next week’s prompt: You pick the surprise prompt! Yup, write about whatever your creative heart desires, just make sure your post includes the element of surprise. Choose from any of the topics we’ve covered: a surprise answered prayer, friendship, adventure, appreciation, mistake, apology, confidence, goodbye, special place, or a photo. Or you may choose something brand new, whatever the Lord puts on your heart. I look forward to reading how your own unexpected surprise story increased your joy or made a difference in your life!



For the Days You Think You’re the Only One Not in the Club

IMG_3764

Sometimes, the more your dream is woven into your deep places, the more you see it out in the world.

When I ached to be a mama but couldn’t get pregnant, I saw pregnant women everywhere. No matter where my feet traveled – grocery stores, movies, church – there they were, members of an exclusive club where everyone knew the password but me.

Of course, this wasn’t true at all. But tender things longed for and not held distorted my vision.

As my thirtysomething self looks around the dining room table at three shrinky dink versions of my husband and me, I see plain evidence that God says yes to desires, even if differently than I planned.

But what about those times when the evidence hides and you’re convinced your desires are the exception? You are the exception?

Read along here for the rest?

On Success and Legacy

Our pastor said it last Sunday: “All that matters in the end – what you see around the deathbeds – is how well someone loved.”

And my mind goes to Marie O’Neill, a woman who was never listed in any Who’s Who of anything on earth, but she was one of the most successful people I knew.

For over fifty years, my Grandma Rea lived in the tiny white clapboard house, the dot at the end of a long dirt road exclamation mark in Osage County. She had only granddaughters and treated us all like favorites, indiscriminately dishing out love like homemade sugar cookies and cinnamon rolls from the oven.

She used words for love all the time. But whether we watched My Fair Lady for the three hundred and thirty-second time or danced to Frank Sinatra or played with babies or baked and baked and baked in the kitchen, she said this a thousand more times through her actions:

I love you, Kristen.

She died a few years ago and left a miles wide legacy of love.

Oh yes, Grandma Rea was successful.

As I dive into the book of John, I read Jesus’ command for His people to love one another. But he doesn’t stop there. Over and over he says whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.

When people of action speak, we listen. And when people of words act, we are inspired. And when we find a way to imperfectly do both, we find success.

If you saw Mr. Holland’s Opus, you know He felt himself a bit of a failure for never publishing his one great musical masterpiece. So when his day job – high school music teacher – ends after thirty years, Mr. Holland wonders if large portions of his life have been misspent.

On the day he packs his office to leave, he is surprised by hundreds of former students who prove he indeed did leave his mark in the world.

“We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and notes of your opus. And we are the music of your life.”

~Gertrude Lang, from Mr. Holland’s Opus

Mr. Holland etched his mark on soul after soul through words and action. And after decades of investment, he found a symphony composed, a symphony of success.

{You tube is not cooperating with me , but if you’d like to watch the scene in all it’s mid-90’s glory (oh the boxy, way-too-big clothes!) click below.}

Mr. Holland’s Opus

No matter the ladders we climb or the medals we grab or the goals we reach, the only success that counts at the chapter’s end is the love-in-action story told through people, the mark we’ve left on eternal hearts and souls.

Under my roof and in my life, may I leave a legacy of love. And in the love, success.

Because We All Need Someone Who Creates Light and Shows Us Ours, Too

Rebecca and I stare transfixed by the Thomas Moran painting. I scout out the ceiling above in search of a light shining down, but there isn’t one. The light shines from the painting itself. An early American artist best known for his paintings of the American West, Thomas Moran painted light and contrast in profoundly unique ways.

How does one use color and tools to create light such as this?

Not only did Mr. Moran posses an amazing talent for painting light, but he was also gifted at removing clutter from a scene so he could paint a landscape’s natural beauty. In the painting above, entitled Green River Cliffs, Wyoming, he removed signs of the town’s commercial development so he could focus on the colorful buttes rising from the water.

In his ability to strip away all excess – the insignificant – and drench the heart of the scene in light, he was able to show us a landscape picture that reflected God’s image, His holy creation.

As I walked around the gallery, I couldn’t help but think how the most inviting people do the same. They see you the way Jesus does, beyond your hurts and imperfections. They minimize your insignificant and highlight your good.

They use tools – their words, their heart, their service, their presence – to create a light that reflects the best parts of you. They see you as the gift you are, part of God’s holy creation.

I want to be that kind of inviting person, too.

Holley Gerth writes like Thomas Moran paints. She uses the Word to drench hearts in Light, to help us see ourselves the way Jesus does. And today? Well, today she invites us to a celebration because she’s having a baby girl! A book baby girl named You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream: Opening the Door to All God Has for You. This beautiful book not only shows you how to give wings to your dream, it will personallly speak to you as it brings you to rest straight into the heart of God. It’s spiritual, practical, inspirational, and it will bless the livin’ daylights out of you like nothing else you’ve read.

{And I’m not just saying that because I’m in it, but because Holley really is our nation’s encourager-in-chief and her books are the next best thing to having her in your living room.}

Won’t you celebrate her book’s birth day by visiting here or here? And if you order You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream from DaySpring, use the code holley25 for 25% off! That makes the book around $8. Woot!

I hope you always feel welcome here, friends. Wish we could all hang out in my living room today.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...