Is there ever an appropriate way for an adult to tell other adults it’s their birthday?

When the hubs celebrated his birthday this past year, he shared with me about a new co-worker asking him, “Why didn’t you tell me it was your birthday?”

Bubble thought: Um, well, because that’s really weird.

My sister also celebrated her birthday – consequently on the second day of training at a brand new job. And no one knew it was her birthday. But, like…how do you appropriately bring that up?

Kids will let know straight up when their birthday is – whether it is 7 days or 7 months from now. Birthdays are all fun and games (literally) when you’re 6. And some still really live it up at age 27 (and 43 and…well, maybe you’re that person – totally cool. No judgment), but I feel like after age 30, it’s…just…well, there’s a dinner and dessert. But most are pretty content being low-key. And I think I know why.

Me, center, celebrating a birthday in college…I think…

Because we’re tired.

Honestly, when J asks what I want for my birthday, I tell him: quiet, alone time.

Ok, maybe that’s just the introverts?

I’m not trying to be all scrooge-y, but seriously: I kinda want to take a really long shower, read a book, have meals delivered to me (no cooking!), and take a nap.

So when people know it’s my birthday, we have that whole: “Oh! Fun! What’re you doing?” Thankfully, my answer is not: fighting a dinner crowd at The Olive Garden while we try to convince the three year old to stop dropping spaghetti on the floor. And no alone time.

On the contrary, I like a simple dinner at home.

Each birthday I get to, I’m grateful for gathering a bit more wisdom that year and simply having time with my family. We all slow down a bit on the big day (no other obligations allowed!) and get to enjoy time together.

Oh, and by the way, my birthday is at the end of this month. I like chocolate, wine, and gummy bears.

 

And THAT’S how you appropriately tell other adults it’s your birthday.

“Busy” is no longer a good answer for “How are you?”

“How are you, Kristin?”
“Busy.”
“Yeah…is there ever a time when it’s not busy?”

I was a bit taken aback. Is that who I am? Always busy? Do people perceive me as always overwhelmed? AM I always overwhelmed? Do I ever feel restful? Am I ever content?
(Rabbit hole thoughts tend to drive me…)

I know this person did not likely intend me to have this deep reflection, but it really forced me to get perspective on how I approach every day. As I considered my attitude toward each day, the first thought that came to mind was: I’ve gotten a lot better.

I’m real high strung (all who know me are clearly not shocked). I think God creates us all a bit different, and I often feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. But since having a child, I’ve let a little more go.

Just today Jim and I were talking about how Owen often comes home with sand in his shoes. At first, I’d ever-so-carefully take his shoes off outside and spend a solid 60 seconds shaking them out. Then, one week, as we were driving home, he took off his shoes in the car because “my feet are hot, mom!” Commence sand all over the back seat floor. I cringed the next couple of times that happened, and then: just let it go. It was not worth a fight with sand.

I am pretty wound about a million other things; I like my world orderly and clean. But I have been ok with dirty floors that only get cleaned once every three weeks (I used to mop and vacuum every Friday, y’all) and a bathroom always with a hint of pee smell (three year old boys have awful aim). I still can’t go to bed with a dirty kitchen, but toys left out in the living room are a daily occurrence.

The fact that we’re home home most nights contributes to our mess there. But if we’re usually spending the evening at home, where does this busy feeling come from? Probably a load of laundry every other night, the need to clean the kitchen, trying to get out and play for a short 20 minutes, and bedtime routine survival. Snack, bath, and bedtime stories can happen in 45 minutes. But then it’s anywhere from 15 to 60 more minutes of “I need a drink,” “I have to pee,” “I have to poop,” “Why are the lights off?!?” before that child finally passes out. On the floor. Sometimes naked. Every blanket he owns strewn around his bedroom.

And, like a fool, I let it get to me. Instead of accepting this as a part of parenting. This is a part of living. Bedtime routine is lil O trying to get just a bit more time with Mom. Twenty minutes of outside time is focused attention that little boy needs. A dirty kitchen means good food in our bellies and the memory of lil O helping cook – and him learning those skills. We’re not busy; we’re living the way God intends us to. Together. And I have got to have a perspective of thankfulness.

So I’m creating a personal challenge. The next time someone asks me how I am, I am going to take a deep, peaceful breath and respond: “Grateful.” When I say I’m busy, I then feel busy, and as a result, I am scattered and stressed. But when I say I’m grateful, I feel grateful. And that leads to peacefulness. “Busy” is no longer an acceptable answer to “How are you?”

What reaction do you give to that question, and how does it drive your attitude?

How I Stopped Giving Excuses for Not Praying

Call it a gently nudging from the Holy Spirit, but I’ve really felt pushed to improve my prayer life, which is nearly…nonexistent. I am not an active pray-er. But I know that is an essential component in growing in relationship with my Creator. So I was thinking about this in my car on the morning commute and decided, “Why not now?”

Thus, it began. “Bless so-and-so, and bless la-tee-dah,” but I stopped and had this internal conversation:

“You know, praying for these vague things feels stupid. I wouldn’t talk to a friend like this.

Well, what does God want to hear from you? He wants me to be real. He wants me to praise His power, but also ask for big things.”

Then: “He wants me to take an active role. He wants me to go outside my comfort zone. He wants me to ask for opportunities to be His messenger today. He wants me to be challenged.”

Seriously. Why do I even start praying? I kind of had my own self-pity party about the whole “challenge yourself” message (all the Doane grads will understand my eye-roll over this phrase), but I also had a huge feeling of empowerment to do.God’s.work. ‘Cause that’s really why He put me here. So get over yourself, Kristin and start thinking about somebody else.

But you know how those experiences go, right? Excitement!! followed by fizzle…I quickly started thinking about all the things I had to accomplish (project at work, dinner plan). So I wasn’t any further in furthering my prayer life.

But I’m a pragmatist – and I couldn’t let it go. So I brainstormed strategies on how to make praying an easier part of my day. I remembered a blog I read about a woman who prays while folding laundry – talking to God with requests for each individual as she folds their particular clothes. It’s a good idea, but I’ve yet to actually do it because I never think of it.

I wanted something very visual, something I have to literally stare at every day.

And then it hit me: a prayer wall. I needed a dry erase board, or bulletin board, or something where I could write prayers, see them, and quickly talk to God. But I needed some ideas on how this might look. As any resourceful woman would, naturally, I went to Pinterest. And y’all. I was not disappointed. If you want to find where Christian women unite, look no further. After brief searching, I came across the perfect set-up: clothespins on a board. You write the prayer on an index card, clip it up on your clothespin, and take it down when it’s finished.

Galatians 5:22 “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and craftiness.”

Ok, not actually craftiness.

I want to be crafty. Lots of times I try to be crafty. Sometimes it turns out ok. Most times it’s just…bad. Bad, bad, bad. So I went to Hobby Lobby and Michael’s to find the signs I wanted for this little prayer homage. And then I had to get a bit crafty by adding the twine and clothespins to one of the signs. And after getting my strong, manly husband (marriage perk!) to put two nails in the wall above the bed, I had myself a visual prayer board.

But the work was just getting started. Now I had to start the prayer writing. I grabbed a few index cards and wrote down every single thing I knew I wanted to pray about. I quickly ran out of note cards, so this Type A started over by categorizing the note cards and adding bullet points (I know. I’m sick.) of several prayers to each one. Then came the hardest part: talking to God about them. So I sat on the bed and started talking, using the index cards as my guide. I prayed really specific things for my husband, son, and me. I prayed for our church leaders. I prayed for my pregnant friends (there are so many of you right now!). I prayed specific things for my co-workers and their families. I prayed for our country.

It was emotional. It was tiring. It was hard to keep going. It was powerful. It was calming. I felt like God had control (that’s new! HA!).

I definitely don’t pray the pray board everyday (something I seriously need to prioritize). But I will peek at it while getting dressed in the morning and say a quick prayer over whichever bullet caught my eye. The board has given me focus in a day where I might feel frazzled over the million thoughts trickling through my brain. Selfishly, the board makes me feel like God is a teeny bit proud of me for coming up with this obviously fantastic idea (I realize I’m kinda missing the mark). I’ll probably feel that way for a while, but at least it has allowed me to consider moving past the inauthentic “bless them” prayers. And more important, it’s stopped me from giving an excuse for not praying and to start getting real with God.

Need help making a prayer board? Meet me at the local craft store with $25. And get your index cards ready.

How do you pray? What’s your strategy? HELP ME!! Please share in the comments!

This Bible verse is saving me right now.

A series at church was asking attendees to share a Bible verse that has stuck with them for some reason. I call it the “saving me” verse. This is your “why-is-my-life-falling-apart-around-me” verse you need to read to gain perspective when everything feels crappy. At church, I’ve heard numerous stories and a bucket load of verses, all leading up to being inspired to identify my “saving me” verse.

In the past, these verses have ebbed and flowed, mostly focusing around worry or unknown:

  • Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to you hope and a future.”
  • Matthew 6:34 “Don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow has enough worry of its own.”
  • Jeremiah 32:27 “I am the Lord, the God of all peoples. Is anything too hard for me?” (I still love this verse. Can you just hear God’s sass? I mean, maybe He’s not trying to, but I just picture his hip cocked out saying, “Girl, please! I got this!”)
  • Joshua 1:6 “Be strong and courageous.” (and continues in verses 9, 18, 25 and again in chapter 31, verses 6, 23)

The past couple months? I’ve felt God speaking to me through 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power and love and self-control.”

Seriously, y’all. This verse has appeared in things I’ve been reading for the last two months. God is really trying to communicate to me. BAD. It started really standing out as I was feeling – for no good reason – near crippling fear about something happening to my boys. Like a deadly car accident. Or home invasion. Or…insert the scene of the crime from the latest crime investigation television show. (I avoid them like the plague because my imagination wanders.) I realize this probably sounds super humorous, but I was in tears at least once a week as a result of my imagination running wild. We all have our demons – and the devil is usually the culprit of every single one.

But another verse was just brought to my attention. Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

This verse comes from the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt as Pharaoh let them go (after a series of seven awful punishments from God). But as they were getting ready to cross the Red Sea, Pharaoh had a change of heart (again) and sent his troops after the Israelites. The Israelites freaked out (read Exodus 12:11-12; they are next-level scared out of their minds), and I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same. But that Moses…he knew who was in control. And he also knew they didn’t need to do a darn thing, because God had promised he would take care of the situation. Moses says: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the sea parted, all the soldiers drowned, yada yada, right? (I mean, not really “yada, yada,” – God did part the water through Moses, after all.) But that verse stuck with me.

I suck at being still. First, I solve my own problems. I was brought up in a home where you tried really hard to not rely on anyone. That’s the American way! But it’s really not God’s way (see: What does the Bible say about self-reliance? from openbible.info; spoiler alert: stop relying on yourself).

Second, I really suck at resting and waiting on God. (Hello…Recovering Martha is the name of this blog.) God designed me to be a do-er. But He did not design me to be angry with O when he dumps a giant cup of water out of the bathtub and onto me and the floor. Or snarky with J about all the hunting gear spread out in the basement. Or impatient with a little boy who just wants “one more, book, Mommy.” Or disobedient by not being in His Word or praying – ever. (Do you ever feel like you could write a giant list of all the things you do wrong, and struggle to think of one right? WHAT IS THAT?!)

God gave us a whole dang day of rest – which we Americans used to call Sunday but now tend to call it the “get all the things done ’til you can’t stand anymore” day. But yesterday (Sunday), I paused for a brief hour to sit and bask in the September sun while I read this book I can’t put down (“7” by Jen Hatmaker – prepare to be involved, to be asked for an uncomfortable life change, and to literally laugh out loud). And…It was lovely. I felt – dare I say – relaxed. Almost rested. Granted, the day didn’t end that way (J will tell the truth – he was definitely vacuuming at 8:15pm, per my request. Thank God for this man and how he doesn’t give up on me). But at least for one hour, I gave up the fight and let God take care of me.

Oh, Lord. Help me to be still. Help me to not get caught up in the day-to-day mess; but rather, focus on my purpose: to be in relationship with You and bring others to You via my relationships. Put people in my life to remind me of this perspective, and please send your Holy Spirit to me with a not-so-gentle “nudging” to crack open my Bible and find another verse to save me. I need all the help I can get.

Step Away From the “To-Do List”

I was with a group of young parents I hadn’t met before. And we were going to be in the same room for the next 60 minutes. We were doing the typical sharing: where you work, kid stories, etc., but I wanted to accelerate the getting-to-know-you process. I said, “This may sound dorky, but I really don’t know how else to say it or how else to know you all a bit better – quickly.” Pause. “But what are your interests or hobbies?”

If you’re a parent, you know how difficult it is to have interests or hobbies. And if someone would have asked me this question even before Owen was born, I would not have known how to respond. Because I am really into accomplishing tasks. I guess that is a hobby. But since starting this Recovering Martha blogging journey, I’ve forced myself to reconsider what I spend my time and energy on. Now don’t be fooled: I still spend a ridiculous amount of time on meaningless tasks (mostly related to way too much social media or a clean house – when people ask Jim about his wife, he describes me as “Monica Gellar“). But I’ve also learned the physical and mental benefits to a yoga workout, getting my accomplishment fix via gardening, and I’ve gotten way more comfortable with publicly announcing my wine habit. So I shared those things with this small group. And I felt like the odd one out.

I was proud of a couple people: one guy in a basketball league, another woman into home decorating (and announcing it took 3 years to build this cool bench out of 3 chairs. I was uber impressed she finished that in only 3 years. No sarcasm; I’m seriously so proud of her.)

But several people seemed to downplay their interests as something they didn’t have time for, or that it wasn’t important.

But it is important – especially to me! I know what it’s like to be completely out of whack with allowing yourself any time or enjoyment (see this beef post and my complete meltdown moment for reasons why I started this blog). And it’s important that we all find “our thing.” Because one day your kids will move out and you won’t know who you are anymore.

I have heard empty nesters describe having to date each other again once all their kids left because they didn’t know how to just be with one another anymore. I’ve heard these same empty nesters struggle to find things they are passionate about. I’ve also heard of some feeling completely lost in their own identity, and depressed because they feel like they wasted their life. Now don’t get me wrong. These women loved taking care of their children and wouldn’t trade that decision, but as they have time to think and reflect, they wish they would have spent a little more time with friends because no one is there for them now. They wish they would have had one night a week where they pursued a hobby: going to jazzercise/studio/horseback riding, so they could feel purposeful and have something to look forward to in an effort to get out of a quiet house.

I don’t want to be in that position someday. I want to feel an identity of more than “worker,” “mother,” and “wife.” I want to be “blogger,” “yogi,” “gardener,” “ wine drinker” (it’s about expectation management – and happiness). I want to be better about identifying myself as “God’s child” because I choose to spend time in His Word and in prayer. And it’s important that my husband and son see me as those multiple roles – not only full-time employee, mother, and wife.

There are a few friends in my life who help me see myself in those other roles – and encourage me to get out of the house. We might get together with our kids because we work and want to have it all: friends and family time. But I’ve tried to be intentional with at least checking in with these women so we don’t totally lose connection (or many times, they are actively pursuing me). It may be a text, email, or lunch date every six months, or it might be a quick yoga workout in a basement once a month. But I’m grateful for these women and their ability to make me feel like someone important and needed in their lives too. I hope I’m meeting a similar need in their life as we continue this struggle to be nearly everything, except, for a moment, “to-do list” people.

friends-julie halloween-friends  

Do you need therapy?

Someone I love has been going to therapy. This person, let’s call him/her “Adele” (because when she comes on the radio, that girl sings like therapy to my heart), is struggling to cope with life’s overwhelming amount of decisions and disappointments. I get it. I actually feel like that on a fairly regular basis. Honestly, I might feel better with therapy.

But why the stigma around going to counseling? For some reason, so many hear the word “therapy” and think:

Crazy.

Failure.

Weak.

Therapy does not necessarily mean mental illness (although for some, I recognize it is – and that’s not terrible either).

This may simply be a tough time.

In college, I suffered a deep depression. I attempted to spend the summer before my senior year in Hampton, New Hampshire, on a Campus Crusade faith-based summer project: living in a giant house with 60 other students for 10 weeks. I had to get a job somewhere local, with that being my first potential “mission field.” The arcade hired me and I hated it. HATED it. (But hard to tell with this happy face at a nearby lighthouse…oh, the facade we can put on…)

Hampton was supposed to be a hot tourist spot, but it rained almost every day I was there which made it really cold, dreary, and not busy. Plus the arcade games required maintenance with physical requirements I struggled with, and my hands always hurt and I had cuts after fixing machines. On top of that, I felt really out of place with all the other “happy” Christians in the house. I felt like everyone was an imposter. I felt like I was an imposter. And I broke down. I couldn’t handle it and went home after 2 weeks.

Going home was no good either. All my friends had summer plans and I was the lost puppy living in my parents’ basement. I ended up going back to the summer camp I had worked previous summers, but never felt at peace. I made some really self-destructive decisions that summer that impacted people I loved. And when I went to start my senior year of college (including as co-president of Campus Crusade on my campus), I was a complete wreck.

A friend suggested I visit the free counseling services. I had nothing to lose and it was very discreet to get to so no one would likely see me walking in. I went to those sessions and just wept. We didn’t come to a resolve, but I at least got to start somewhere. After feeling stagnant in the sessions, I stopped going, but I’m not ashamed to say I did revisit a counselor about two years later to talk through feelings of self-worth and the lies I was believing about failure.

So when “Adele” told me she was going to counseling, I was happy for her. I celebrated that she was able to push past the stigma that many times our society tells us about the weakness of getting help. But more people need help, y’all.

Mental health problems are at an all-time high, especially among youth, today. I especially love that British royalty is focusing on this issue. Prince Harry recently shared his struggle with his mother’s death and how, after seeking counseling, he’s finally been able to cope with her death – and stop the risky behavior he has engaged in for years.

I became enthralled while researching this topic, especially because I ran into two articles I fell.in.love.with. These sites are a great place to start with as you start to explore if counseling might be a good fit for you – or someone you love.

11 Very Good Reasons to Go to Therapy

14 Misconceptions About People Who Go to Therapy

But I realized I hadn’t yet asked God’s opinion about seeking out help – from others (in addition to Him, y’all. ‘Cause we should always strive to seek Him out.) And He didn’t disappoint. Here are my few fave verse:

Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Proverbs 15:22 Without consultation, plans are frustrated. But with many counselors they succeed.

We need people to help us with the journey. It’s part of God’s plan for our life.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Ooohh!!! I just LOVE that! “Bear one another’s burdens.” Y’all! God is practically calling each of us to counsel one another – He commands it, as He demonstrates that by doing so we have obeyed.

We all have issues; that will never end. God wants to help you, but He also realizes you may need a physical person and voice to help guide you out of your valley. So go to therapy. And if anyone gives you a funny look about it, tell ‘em God prescribed it. 

I punched Jesus in a bar.

I was invited to a party at a bar. Do you know the last time this 32-year-old mother was in a bar? For some, it’s normal because it may be a hang out spot, but my friends just haven’t made that “our place.”

I wasn’t drinking because I had a sinus infection and was on an antibiotic, so needed every ounce of water I could get. Then, I immediately was reminded of the loudness of a bar. I had to raise my voice and lean in close to hear others. All was going fine until…yelling. Yelling profanity. Not me; someone I didn’t know. I haven’t experienced that in years. And I was shocked. Because this other person was the same age as me: over 30. And yelling profanity in a bar.

I didn’t have time to think about what was happening because I was attempting to have the best conversation we all could muster with a group of acquaintances I hadn’t seen since college. We were catching up on everything that had happened in the past 10 years, when I suddenly let the bar atmosphere get the best of me. I used a couple cuss words – and one in reference to another person. I shocked myself when it happened. I don’t live my life potty-mouth free, but this was a really intense choice of words in front of a group. What did I just do?

Now being a Christian isn’t about avoiding bars. And it’s not about swearing. But that word vomit is a sin in God’s eyes – and certainly doesn’t impress anyone else. Then, remember that person that was yelling profanity? He – sarcastically – yelled across a few tables at our group, and…I found myself sarcastically yelling back. Because I used to do that when I was in college – at bars. What was happening?! I nearly slapped myself silly.

Next, I texted an old friend who was planning to come to the party but was exhausted after a full day of taking kids to the zoo. I gave her some sarcastic language in a text. And felt terrible after pressing “send.”

What was happening to me? Why was I reacting like this – especially with no alcohol to use as a crutch? And as I reflected the morning after, I realized: I punched Jesus in a bar.

I mean, not literally. He didn’t show up in physical form. But I definitely went back to old ways as a result of my environment.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, you are a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I was a Christian in college. I was even a leader for a faith-based organization on campus. But I also decided I wanted to have a college experience. I rarely went to parties or drank, but on the few occasions I did, I purposely tried to make at least one poor choice and seize that lifestyle – because I knew I wouldn’t seek out those experiences ever again. I wanted to know what it felt like.

But this latest night in a bar? I obviously retreated to that old mindset. I caved to the devil. And I felt so incredibly embarrassed.

Why didn’t I ask the group of acquaintances (who I know are believers) how they were doing in their spiritual walk? Or how I could pray for them? Why did I text my friend, who couldn’t make it, sarcasm instead of empathy? I always give empathy for exhausted parent scenarios because that IS my situation. Daily.

Because the devil took advantage of me in that bar – and I was unable to see Jesus in that environment.

So God and I had a conversation today as I realized all this and I confessed – apologized – for the way I didn’t reflect Him in my demeanor that night. And I’m still trying to cope with the guilt and embarrassment of it all. (So I wrote a blog. Somehow public confession helps me get over things?) Which explains my next step…

To those of you who were there: Maybe you noticed you something. Maybe you think I’m getting worked up out of nothing. But this was a big deal between Jesus and me. I’m sorry I didn’t engage with you in meaningful conversation, like about our faith relationships. And I’m sorry I did not show you or anyone else in that bar what I means to be changed because of Jesus. Please don’t remember me as the shallow woman who caved to sin in the bar. Please think of me a sinner, always trying to be a little bit better the next time. And for when we see each other again in…about 10 years? Let’s talk about some real stuff. And I’d really like to avoid yelling, profanity, and general catastrophe. So let’s try to not meet in a bar.