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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Discovering Beauty Under Pressure

Hello From Awkward to Art readers!
I am so honored to have this opportunity to share about a brand new blog launching September 20th, for ladies just like you. My name is Rachel and I am the co-founder of The Pearl Press. I am on a team of 14 ladies who are 100% committed to living life as God intended it to be. So just briefly let me share with you what The Pearl Press is all about.

Every week on The Pearl Press we will share 3 posts addressing our spirit, soul, and body. Below is a post focused on cultivating our souls and is very similar to something you would read on The Pearl Press every Tuesday.


Inevitably at some point in our lives, we all ponder the meaning and the purpose of life. It turns out, life is meant for a whole lot of livingNot just the kind of living where you breathe in and breathe out and go through the motions of life day after day, after day.

The sort of living where every day is a new day and a fresh opportunity to make the most of the one life you've been given. The kind of living that looks for the extraordinary in any old, ordinary, day! The kind of living that can always find a reason to celebrate, because after all, every day has the potential to be a special occasion. Living with joy and passion and might I even say, a little zest !

Maybe it's a bit silly that I celebrate things like National Teddy Bear Day, Make your own Pizza Day, and the birth of the precious little Prince Georgie over in London. Perhaps I would have scored a few points higher on my final exams in college had I not been up all night with the girls on my hall eating crackers and sipping tea in dresses while we watched the Royal Wedding. And maybe my fluffy little puppy doesn't need homemade puppy cookies and cupcakes for every single birthday. But it is in those little occasions where life is the fullest.

If I reach the end of a year and in reflection can only remember a lot of check marks on a lot of lists, then did I actually do anything at all? Sure, I got a lot of stuff done, but did I make any memories or grow closer to any friends? Do I remember the times I laughed, the times I cried, or the times I thought I didn't want to remember? Because I can tell you this much, while To Do lists are a necessary part of life (and believe me I love them) they do not add or fulfill the purpose of our life. Our itemized lists are full of stuff that truly have purpose, but none of them are our purpose. The stuff we have to accomplish every day is simply that… stuff. All of it is merely part of the greater, grander story!

Slowly I've gotten myself in the habit of expanding the concept of a To Do list. Now I don't simply include tasks that need to be accomplished, I also include living on them. Here's what a sample list might look like for me:

I laughed back in college when I made this discovery, but now I see I may have actually been onto something! I used to put "nap" on my To Do lists every now and again so that when I woke up I could cross something off. I wanted to feel as though I had accomplished something, and not wasted time. I guess it was silly, but now I see that there was something fundamentally right about that. Maybe if we would start including these seemingly silly things on our To Do lists, we would actually be convinced that in the simplest parts of life we are indeed accomplishing GREAT things! They may not be physical, tangible things that we can see or touch, but they are the things that truly bring purpose and joy to living. 

I admit it! I am so guilty of being a Do-er...I always need to feel like I am doing something or getting something checked off of a list. However, I have learned that far better than doing is being; allowing ourselves to simply be present in every moment. Doing often causes us to become unaware of our surroundings, causing us to miss out on a lot of beauty in life. But being, on the other hand, allows us to embrace and take in that beauty, fueling all the doing that must still be done.

It's official now. I am (over) a quarter of a century old. Every single day I am closer to 30 than I am to 20. On one hand, that's a little scary, but on the other I'm pretty okay with it. When I look at what Jesus and I have managed to squeeze into 27 short years, I feel like we're on a roll! I am thankful for the one life He has given me and for the grace He has given that allows me to live it to the fullest. He has filled this world and our lives with endless amounts of beauty and joy, more than we could ever possibly even begin to see in one lifetime. So let's get to it. See all your eyes can capture. Feel all your hands can hold. Breathe in as much as your lungs can hold. I can assure you there will be more living to do every single day. Enough to fill an infinite amount of To Do lists. Fill them if you must, but fill them with a whole lot of living.

We hope you stop by The Pearl Press. Remember September 20th is the big day! Until then you can find us on Facebook. We would LOVE to connect with you! And a HUGE thank you to Julie for letting us share today and for your amazing support!


Friday, September 4, 2015

Because I Hate Bad News.

Me: (via text) Hey Mom. What are you up to today?
Me: (via text) Are you doing anything tonight?
Me: (via text) Any chance you would be able to watch the kids tonight?

Finally I hurdle through *what feels like an impossible* challenge of using my actual words for an actual phone call to possibly hear an actual real time rejection of my request. It's so much easier to ask a favor via text because then if I am turned down, I can sulk quietly in the privacy of my home. On that same note, it's easier for the favor to be asked of someone via text because they can ignore the request and pretend they didn't see it. I'm not saying that's what my mom does, I'm saying we all do it. Because we hate bad news. And in some cases, being stuck babysitting on a Friday night is bad news.

Am I the only one who avoids looking at my bank statement because I'm scared of what it might say? Or avoids going to the doctor because what if it's serious? I do it like I'm watching a scary  movie with my hands covering my eyes and I peek through the space in my fingers. I have pillows on either side of my ears to drown out the intensity of the music. I want to know what happens, but I dont really want to see what leads up to it.

I was talking to my mom on the phone one morning earlier this week and I asked her about the possibility of  'unpleasant news' and she said to me, "I haven't thought about it yet. I want to get into the presence of God first and pray and read my Bible. Otherwise it will ruin my day." {On a side note: Can I just say I love my mom for that? She's sets such an incredible example of looking unto Jesus first, and not circumstances.}

As I was mulling over these thoughts yesterday, I forced myself to go over in my head all the *bad news* and things that I had thought about these past few weeks.
*Wow, I can't believe she died. Where has she been all these years anyways?
*Guys are such jerks. What on earth is wrong with people?
*Who on earth is that disgusting? Perverts.
*What do we do if ISIS was here? And I hear it is. Seriously, what do we do?
*Another mass shooting? Do I ever want to go to a movie again?
*Her Instagram feed looks so cool. What's the point? I'm not that creative. I can't compete with that.
*I wish I was cute and skinny again and had money for clothes like that. Those days are gone forever.
*Ugh. This country is getting more and more corrupt and immoral. I can't even handle it anymore.
*Do they ever see their kids? Is she ever happy or in a good mood? Can they ever not share gossip stories on facebook?

The list goes on.

So many thoughts that hit my mind regularly are negative and derived from something I was looking at online, either in the *facebook trending* news or on social media of some form. You guys, I'm not sure how I feel about  the shock of celebrity gossip or watching our society recklessly abandon biblical principals on the regular or shuttering over heart wrenching death being at the forefront of my day. I was always one to sort of avoid 'the news' because I didn't want to feed on anything that was going to cause me additional fear or pain. Maybe that's just me.

I often have this inner battle with my online status and whether or not I should step away from social media or the internet occasionally because of the way it affects me.  I think alot of us do. It almost seems silly, but the internet riles us up, ya know? It can boil our blood, put us in tears, cause us to roll our eyes, confuse us, sadden us, frighten us and deter our faith if we let it. And it's real. I hate to say it, but it's not just silly social media anymore. It's real life.
You know why? Because it really affects our hearts.

Above all else, guard your heart, because everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23

This verse has been rolling around on the inside of me this past 24 hours. Guard your heart. You guys, protecting yourself from 'bad news' or whatever it is that trips you up, isn't silly. It's actually biblical. You are the one who is responsible for your life and what flows from it. You have a responsibility to your people. Your kids. Your husband. Your community. Is life flowing from you to them? Is joy and peace flowing from you to them? Or is frustration, fear, irritability, confusion, doubt? Whatever it is, it's coming from somewhere.

What you are filling your heart with is what will come out. And if you aren't filling it with life, then life isn't what is coming out. You know the saying- Garbage In, Garbage out...

This post has nothing really to do with facebook or instagram or the internet within itself. In fact there is so much good online. So much that has inspired me and given me hope. But this has to do with what is affecting your heart for the worse. We might blow it off like it's not a big deal or tease people because they take it so seriously and abandon their social media, But in our culture, social media is *a thing* for a lot of people. Internet temptation is real. Fear is real. It just is.
Online life *is* real life for the majority of our society.
And if that is what is affecting you daily, then it's up to you to protect yourself. It it's something else, then guard yourself from that. Don't feel silly about it. Take your heart seriously.
You are responsible for the life (or death) that is flowing from you to your people, to your dreams, to your vision, to your purpose. I don't know about you, but I want life flowing into my vision. I want life flowing to the people I love and serve.

I'm not saying never go to the doctor because you don't want to hear bad news, or don't take cover when a tornado siren is going off. Obviously, we should use wisdom and we know there are tests and troubles in this world. We go through them with Jesus by our side. And we overcome.

But don't go looking for unnecessary ways to crush your spirit and spew death into the inner most parts of you, because you are responsible to give life and you can't give life you have none in you to give. 

Semi Side Note: Of course I know the word of God says to "cast down all thoughts and imaginations that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God" and I do when they come, Thank God for His truth.  But what if we didn't feed on or help plant those thoughts to begin with?

Bad news isn't entirely unavoidable. But feeding on it is. Where is your bad news coming from?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Mom Guilt.

This afternoon my girls started walking out the door to head next door to my sister's house (yes, she lives next door) and immediately I went in panic mode. My sister has a brand new three week old baby girl and who knows where my kids hands have been. I don't keep perpetual tabs on what their fingers are digging in or playing with, but I know whatever it is, it probably made their fingernails grimy and black and sticky and I can only assume that no one wants the gritty fingers of adventurous children touching the cheeks of their first precious baby girl. So I panicked. I made them scrub their hands and I pulled out the toenail clippers, because I couldn't find a fingernail one. A toenail clippers will do just fine. And I cut those babies down as far as they would go. I breathed a sigh of relief. Almost. I knew Leila had just been running through the dirt without her shoes on. Here's to sending her off and hoping she doesn't take her shoes off while she's out of reach.

Mom Guilt.

Last night, my son sort of went into a mild hysteria. It suddenly dawned on him that school was just around the corner, when I told him at 10:30 it was time for bed and it was time to get on a school bedtime schedule. His bedtime is actually 9:30 on school nights, but I'm easing him in. He nagged, cried, yelled a little, begged and then he mumbled something about people 'controlling his life.' And before I knew it, the word "brat" popped out of my mouth and everything in me wanted to pull it out of the air. I also wanted to take back a summer full of bedtimes at midnight for him, but what can I do about it now? Deal with the repercussions of my inconsistencies as a parent. Inconsistencies suck.

Mom Guilt.

Last week, the girls were playing quietly and working hard all day in their bedroom. I saw blankets and tables being dragged into their room and I turned a blind eye to the inevitable tornado I was sure had hit their bedroom. I knew it was being demolished. But they were being so quiet and I was enjoying the silence.
And also, I'm a type B personality. I'm not saying a bit of panic or irritability doesn't set in when the house is a mess and people are on their way over or if I'm trying to work or watch TV and there are clothes and lucky charms strewn about. Stress happens. But usually, I tell myself to chill. Enjoy life. Yes, I can enjoy life in a mess, because my kids come before the house. My happiness is found in Jesus. And I simply don't have time to do it all. Particularly not in the summer when I have 4 kids and their friends over all the time. So I rest in the fact that I will get to it when I can.
However, this particular Saturday, I had just recently put the mattresses back on the bed from the bridge the girls built the day before with them and I left the house. The moment we had re-entered the house, I caught them in their room with the mattresses back off the beds and they said they were "making a book" with them. I put the kibosh on the book making fun and Jada told me in character of a typical nine year old that I was mean. In fun, I took the situation to facebook and asked how many moms out there were 'mean' like me and would not let their kids turn their mattresses into a book. The response basically bit me in the tush because it boiled down to 98% of them were mean by their own claim and were seemingly appalled that I had let it go that far.
I basically got the "I would never!!!" vibe.
And suddenly it kicked in.

Mom Guilt.

Most days, I realize the mom guilt or self condemnation by any nature sets in when I compare myself with other people. Other moms. Other pictures on my Instagram feed. Probably type A's. In any case, I compare and I suddenly feel like I don't feed my kids the right foods. My kids aren't being home-schooled. I don't do crafts with my kids (at least not on a regular basis). I'm not a room mom at their school or on the PTA nor do I care to be. I let them make bridges with their mattresses occasionally. And yes, they eat in their room and their carpeting is paying for it. (Not to mention, my eyes and sometimes my feet.)

Am I the only one that feels the tremendous guilt weighing down on you when you find out what someone else is doing or isn't doing? Perhaps you are a working mom who longs to be at home with your children. Perhaps you are a stay at home mom, who feels like you should be providing better for your family. Maybe you rush home after a busy day only to feed your kids cereal or a peanut butter sandwich. Maybe you feel like you don't have time to study up, much less have money to buy organic, gluten free, paleo foods for your family. I've been in tears as I've watched other moms from a distance. I've seen their successful businesses made with 6 kids in tow while they homeschool and pastor a church or travel the globe and I think to myself, "How Lord? How do they do it and still seem so happy?"

All I can come up with is that God has equipped them in this time and this season to do what they are doing. And same goes for you and I. God has equipped us in this time for this season to do what we are doing. He hasn't asked you to do more. He hasn't asked you to do what that girl is doing. As a mom, God gives you the direction, you the grace, you the time to just be MOM. Being mom doesn't come with a rule book or a play by play. And the rules and suggestions of our culture are always changing so you certainly can't go by that. You have to go by your heart, your intuition and where He is leading you to. Sometime his leading allows for some unstructured fun in your kids bedrooms. I'm not kidding. I've felt that 'nudge' to let go of my own self proclaimed precedent about what life or family should or shouldn't be and I've learned to go with the flow.
I've followed His leading. His simple leading to enjoy life. Enjoy my family.
Don't wait for the weekend or for vacation. Enjoy it today, even in the rush.

I'm not saying structure is wrong. Or rules are wrong. Or schedules are wrong. They are all great. And perfect for you, if you know how to work them and maybe you thrive on them. But I'm talking to the 'everyones' who feel guilty because they don't feel like they match up to the next persons way of doing life. Maybe you are a structured by the book kind of mom and you wish you were more laid back. All I know is this: Follow that God appointed parental intuition on the inside of you. It's there for YOU and YOUR family.

I'm always learning. I'm always re-evaluating. I told my son last night as he was in tears about 'having to go to school to learn' that  90% of our life is learning (okay I don't have the statistics on that, but you get what I'm saying.). It never stops. I told him, I'm learning right now how to talk to you & work with you. Life is a continual process. And when I screw up and say something to my kids I feel badly about, I make sure to set the standard at apologizing with sincerity. Mommy makes mistakes, but I shouldn't have said that. I didn't mean it. So they know that it's okay to make mistakes, but it's better if we learn from them and resolve the problem or hurt we created.

So for all of us moms. Or parents.
Know that you are fully equipped with everything it takes to be a good parent... or a better parent if that's what you desire.. It doesn't take more money or healthier foods or more craft nights, being on the PTA or less mess. Or maybe it does. But just know you have what it takes. You have the ability to make sound decisions and fill their hearts with love and adventure right where you are.
You are enough.

Because He made you to be.

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