Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Women of God

Sometimes I hesitate when I want to talk about faith. I don't live in the Bible Belt anymore. Here in Colorado people don't talk much about church or faith or God. It is almost as if claiming your faith loud and proud makes people think you are a little extreme. Like maybe not so smart. Or a little nuts.

I was most certainly raised in church but I rebelled hard starting my senior year in high school. I have spent 17 years roaming. Trying to quench a thirst that I haven't been able to satiate. And believe me y'all, I have tried many of my own solutions. I have been at the bottom of the well, looking up and begging for mercy. I have dug many a hole for myself. I thought maybe God was done with me. "Put her on the hopeless list and move on."

But a few years ago the strangest thing started happening. I can only see now how God was working. How he was slowing putting me back on his path. I wasn't aware at the time but looking back it all makes sense.

Over the past few years I have met women that I love. Women that bring me joy. Women whose goodness I feel in their mere presence. I won't list their names here because I didn't ask their permission to tell this story. But I will tell you a bit about them.

I have two neighbors who aren't friends with each other but are friends with me. They both are kind and generous. I would classify both as good friends. Women I trust. Women who are not competitive. Women who genuinely want to see me happy.

In the fall of 2011 when Grace was still dealing with hip dysplasia, I met a gentle soul. She came into my life serendipitously. I believe she was sent at a time when I needed help desperately. I was broken open and she helped with my most precious gifts, my children.

Then just last year, I met a sweet young girl who babysits my children. They love her because she is barely a teenager and still relates as a child. She is young but I often think more mature than me.

What do all of these women, and others I didn't mention, have in common? They all are Christians. Not just faithful, not just God loving, but specifically Jesus believing women.

None of these women ever invited me to church. None of these women pushed Jesus on me. None of these women made me feel guilty for my lack of faith. And that is exactly what I needed. God knows me. I am stubborn and cynical.

A pushy approach would have just raised my hackles and brought out my argumentative side. Yet, none of these women hid their faith. They all just offered the example of Jesus in the way they walk through their lives. Giving of themselves to serve others.

This past January God must have known I was ready. I felt led to attend a Bible study. I learned so much. I am continuing to learn so much. This spring brought more women of faith. Women who love Jesus and for some unknown reason, seem to love me. Visits, Facebook connections, old friends rediscovered. All part of God's plan to show me what loving him is supposed to look like. Not what the world tells us Christianity should be, but living the actual Word.

And just today, I felt the spirit. I felt him telling me to be careful what I say. To be careful how I represent him. He isn't done with me. I have more knowledge to gain. I need to learn to listen before I start talking.

I know people are hesitant about faith. Believe me, I get it. But it really is so good to find the peace that comes with following God's will. I am hungry for the word. I am hungry to learn and grow. And I am thankful that God didn't give up on me.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Shopping for Good

Do you ever find yourself in a transition? A place where you know you are growing and changing? A place of learning and awareness? I am in that place. Some days I feel like a cartoon character with the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. A place where the decision to do good is not easy or convenient. But the feeling when I actually choose the good, now that is amazing.

Have you ever thought about the footprint your dollars leave on the world? It is easy to tell ourselves that buying cheap and convenient stuff is good. We save money. We get more stuff. How is that a bad thing?

The ripple effect caused by all that cheap stuff is where we are choosing the devil on our shoulder. We keep telling ourselves we are doing nothing wrong. Ignorance is bliss. But, The Story of Stuff tells us something different. If you have 20 extra minutes, you should watch this.

I am certainly no saint when it comes to shopping. I LOVE a bargain. It is thrilling to shop and get a lot of stuff for a little amount of money. Score! Right? I am sorry to say, but often it is really, really wrong. Our dollar is creating injustice in the world. Our desire for abundant cheap stuff creates a demand for cheap labor and resources. That demand for resources opens the door for corporations to rape the lands rich in valuable resources but lacking in stable and responsible governments.

High demand for cheap labor creates a market for slavery. People of all genders and ages are forced to work for very little or nothing at all. The prettier label is human trafficking, but that is just a fancy way of saying slaves. And the reality is that there is a disparity in the volume of women and children forced into slavery. Our first world entitlement completely disregards third world suffering.

So how can we change? Simple awareness, refusing to be ignorant, that is the start. Buy fair trade items. Refusing to buy coffee that is not fair trade is the easiest place to start. This is probably the easiest item to find in the marketplace.

Here are a few other items I have bought recently that are fair trade.

Good & Fair Clothing Company's hipster panties. These panties are seriously comfortable and great quality. They come in blue, black and pink. I have the blue and black and wear each pair at least twice a week. 

Global Goods Partners offers Bracelets for Change. Each bracelets is $10 and helps "a Guatemalan woman to split the cost of providing clean water, healthy food, and a safe home for her and her family."

Photo courtesy  

I purchased the dark blue bracelet to wear as part of a summer Bible study I am participating in. As part of the study we are supposed to wear blue bracelets throughout the summer. I love this bracelet. It is fashionable and sturdy. Plus it is for good.

Finally, my favorite place to buy stuff is Sevenly. Sevenly gives $7 of every purchase to charity. Each week Sevenly selects a different charity and creates products that tie into the charity's theme. Plus the best part is that Sevenly sells only fair trade clothing. 

I have a few shirts from Sevenly and they are great quality and super cute. I also have this print hanging in over our master bathroom's tub. This helps me remember my privilege.

These are just a few options for shopping responsibly. With just a little effort you too can choose not to participate in the slave trade. If we all make a pledge to honor what is right, I have hope that we can make the world a better place. Shop for good. The reward is wonderful.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Writer's Life

A few months ago I talked here about writing. I shared my fears of whether I was actually a writer. Writing creates vulnerability. When you open yourself up through the written word you are inviting others to praise, criticize or stare blankly at the page with indifference.

In three years, Grace will start kindergarten. She will go off to school everyday and I will be left home for a few hours officially unemployed. That is the thing with our little ones. They grow and slowly move away from us.

My favorite question for Christian is, "what is the minimum amount of money you need me to make?" You see, I have no fear about being able to financially take care of myself. I fully believe if I needed to support our family financially that I could do it. But I don't want to do it. I want to be free for as long as our children live in our home. I want to be here when they leave for school and get home from school. I have no desire to return to a corporate job where I leave at 7:30 and get home at 5:30 and travel and stress and then come home to all the work of mothering. God bless the working mom. I can't even imagine how I would get it all done.

Last summer I picked up "The Copywriter's Handbook" at the library. Robert Bly's book explained how he used his formal professional training to become a copywriter. He creates written business materials for companies based on his technical skills. This got me started thinking that I should do that. I have formal business training. I worked for various corporations for ten years before I left to raise Jack.

Somehow my copywriting vision transitioned to marketing consulting. I took my simple idea of trying to write copy and made it into a bigger vision. I found my first client and began doing some marketing work. And while I like helping a small business. And while I feel competent; I don't really enjoy it.

I don't want to expand my marketing business and even keep turning down additional clients. Yet, I keep wanting to write. I keep coming back to the notion that writing is my path.

For as long as I can remember, the written word has been my passion. I have always been an avid reader. I love books. But I have also always written. And for a people pleaser like myself, I love when people compliment my writing. It is the one area where I feel proud when people like what I say.

My dilemma is writing is not a lucrative business. To choose to write is to choose to make less money than I could with my professional training. It is a decision to pursue passion over dollars. And writing is hard work. Whether copywriting, article writing, editing or creating the elusive first novel; crafting the written word takes diligence. But I love it. I love to see words from my mind transferred to the page. It creates a joy and pride that I have only previously found in the faces of Jack and Grace.

Will I take this path that follows my passion? Can I do the hard work? Can I demonstrate for my children that following one's passion leads to joy even if not to riches?

I do realize that I have these options because of my husband's success. He works hard so that I have choices. For that I am grateful. It is not lost on me that my life is dripping with privilege.

So do I take advantage of the privilege and set out down the uncertain path of a writer's life or do I follow the path I know? One of structure and weekly paychecks?

Writing makes me feel like I could change the world. It gives me hope that as individuals we can impact our fellow man for good. What path will I take? I am not sure I know. But I do know that we can search a lifetime and never pinpoint our passion. Maybe only a fool would turn away.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

First Attempt at Soccer

This spring we signed Jack up for introductory soccer. This was basically a bunch of four year olds running around a field chasing a soccer ball. Jack loved and hated it. He loves sports but he hates organized activities.

He keeps telling me that he doesn't want to do anymore classes. I don't remember four year olds having classes when I was a kid. To me it seems a little young and so we are boycotting organized activities for the summer. Plus I kind of hate organized activities for the kids. Hmm...could this be where Jack gets it?

Enjoy these photos from Jack's soccer experience.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Ms. Day Moment

My first job out of college was as a collections call center supervisor. I joined the company as part of a management training program and this was my first rotation. Looking back offers twenty-twenty vision and I can see now just how obnoxious I must have been. I thought I was way too good for that job and I am sure I let everyone around me know it. I am embarrassed to think about how self-centered and arrogant I was. My twenties were not my finest moments.

The interesting thing is that was the best job I ever had with the best company I ever worked for. I just wasn't mature enough to know it at the time.

My third rotation was as a supervisor in the titles and contracts department. I was still a little too self-important and looking to prove just how smart I was. Elizabeth Day was a member of my team. Ms. Day was worn down. You knew this to look at her. She had a middle school aged daughter that she adored. Ms. Day had a teaching degree from Auburn University. Yet, she worked at an hourly job processing missing titles.

I didn't like her from the start. She worked reduced hours. She had been with the company a long time. She had seen many twenty something, college educated supervisors rotating through her department. The truth is I don't think she liked me much either.

I made it my goal to learn Ms. Day's job. To make her replaceable. I wanted her to work full-time like the rest of my team. She knew this is what I wanted. She needed her job. And I lacked empathy and compassion. I wasn't outwardly mean. I didn't break any rules. I treated her with respect. But that doesn't mean I was doing the right thing. We don't always have to point out the weaknesses of others. We don't always have to pour salt in wounds. We can offer to love even when we don't like.

Somewhere her life had taken a hard turn. I could have tried to help her. I could have been understanding. I could have made a point not to add to her stress.

One morning my manager called me into her office. Ms. Day had died over the weekend of a heart attack. She was gone. And I was heart broken. I still think about Elizabeth. I still regret that I didn't love her better.

The summer Grace had her surgeries, during the darkest time of my life, our Radley died. We didn't know he had bone cancer in his hip. We just knew he was old and his joints ached. One day after weeks of barely sleeping I saw Radley put his front paws on our kitchen table and eat Jack's lunch off of his plate. I swatted Radley on his left hip. He growled at me and I felt bad immediately. This was another Ms. Day moment. A moment when I should have been kinder. When I should have been patient and offered compassion. Instead I was angry. I was focused on my needs and my frustrations.

I still have Ms. Day moments. Unkind words about someone I barely know. Impatience with my children. Self-centered conversations. Straight up meanness because I am tired or weak or insecure. These moments are more rare for me than they once were. I am softer now. I try to think before I speak. But mostly, somewhere along the way I found compassion.

I now know that everyone has a reason for how they behave. People have a source for who they are. How they got to this place. It isn't our purpose to pass judgement. It is only our place to love. To love the broken. To love the successful. To love those that have what we want and to love those that challenge our happiness.

Compassion is the key. It isn't just about making the road easier for the other person. It actually makes us feel better about ourselves. I love Ms. Day for teaching me this important life lesson.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth

Last month we took our first trip to Disney World. Jack and Grace had the time of their little lives. We were at Magic Kingdom before it opened and stayed until the fireworks. Amazingly, no one whined or cried or had a breakdown. It was the perfect day for our little family.

Christian is seriously an amazing guy. I had never done Disney before and he insisted that he take the kids while I ride a roller coaster. What fun!

Jack and Grace's favorite part was meeting the characters. They loved meeting all their favorites. It will only be a few years before meeting Winnie the Pooh isn't magical. We soaked up the fun and the magic.

Watching my sweet children explore Disney was one of the most fun days of my life. This is the sweetest season and I am loving every minute of it.