Monthly Archives: April 2016

On Being Lonely

I’m watching  a documentary on Netflix called The Whale, about a two year old orca whale that was separated from its pod. The movie documents the impact the whale, called Luna, had on the British Columbia village .

The little whale was lonely and sought out humans for friends. It threw the village into a strange, quiet argument. Wildlife experts said leaving Luna the whale alone, not touching him, would be best. Local indigenous people said he was the spirit of a leader and needed protection. Regulars on the water said they just couldn’t leave him alone, that something about his plight triggered an intuitive response.

It was very unusual for an orca to be alone, and even more unusual for it to want so much human interaction.

That’s the thing about loneliness. It can make you do things that you may not have done previously,  even make you want to befriend a completely different species. Look at how we befriend animals and call them ‘pets’. Really, they’re our friends.

At least my dogs are my friends.

Especially my Pumpkin Pie.

10941841_10205575595736447_8427572362490021776_n
This is what dinner is like.
11754515_10207012653461992_424384995332505153_o
See her smiling for our walk?

Her eyes are filled with pure love when she looks at me. If she’s outside and I’m near a window I will look up to see her gazing sweetly at me. She waits outside the bathroom door for me. When I am ill she keeps vigil at my side. My favorite thing to do with her is take her to an open field and allow her to run off of her leash. When she’s far, far away from me I call her. She runs so hard and so fast to get to me, and looks so joyful, it instantly lifts my spirits.

I will never be lonely as long as I have my Pumpkin with me.

Not that I think loneliness is a bad thing. I don’t. I actually believe that loneliness is important to experience in our lives. You learn a lot about yourself, you learn a lot about the world, and you can learn a lot about others.

I felt like that little whale not too long ago. Moving is really hard. It forces you to leave behind friends. Even with the connection that technology and the U.S. postal service allows there is still something lacking when you can’t sit face to face with a person you call friend, who knows things about you that you haven’t even said out loud.

You don’t have to move to feel lonely, either.

Maybe it’s like Luna and you just lose your pod. You don’t really know how, you just get distracted by life and when you look back around your pod has moved on.

It happens.

The way I see it you’ve got two choices when you’re detached from friends:

1. Float around alone for a while and enjoy the view.

This isn’t a terrible option. Have you ever gone to the movies alone? It is awesome. You don’t have to share your overpriced popcorn, or worry that your laugh annoys your companion.

Also, when you’re alone it’s much easier to observe the world around you. You pay attention a little bit more. It’s a good time to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Take walks alone. Go on a bike ride. Sign up for a class somewhere.

It’s sounds cliche but lonely times are a good time to get to know yourself a little better. Reacquaint yourself with your likes and dislikes. Try a new hair style, get rid of clothes you hate. Practice self-care, something that women are notoriously shabby at.

2. Force yourself to contact others.

What I love about this little whale is that he didn’t try and hide his loneliness.

“Hey, I’m lonely,” his giant black flippers seemed to be saying to boaters. Why else would the boaters have stopped to chat with him?

Separation makes us vulnerable, and the trick to ending that is to make yourself…more vulnerable. You have to let another know that you’re suffering in order to end the suffering, and that’s hard.

It’s completely possible to be surrounded by people that you call friends and still feel alienated.  I don’t think you have to be alone to feel lonely. You can be surrounded by people but if they don’t offer you support, if they’re not bracing during the tough times, you’re going to feel lonely. 

Sometimes you have to tell your pod exactly what you need. 

It may be, though, that if you’re not getting what you need from your pod seeing a counselor is a necessary step. If loneliness and anger and sadness are with you more than your friends are, getting help is a good thing.

Whatever you do, know that loneliness is a temporary state. It can be easy to begin thinking of the situation that we’re in as permanent, but that’s not the case. Life is constantly moving and things will be different, eventually. You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you CAN control your attitude.

That’s a freebie, folks, a little nugget mined in my own counseling experience. It’s true, too.

Be brave, misfits!

May you never be separated from your pod.

And if you are may you always find boats filled with humans.

And may the propellers from their boats not kill you.

 


 

I’m curious, have you gone through a lonely time? What got you through it?

 

 

Don’t Stop Beliebin’

I shared in my newsletter that the theme of Brave Misfit for the month of April is renewal. My pal  and fellow Brave Misfit Amber Kincaid has generously shared her writing here.

I met Amber years ago at Bible Study Fellowship. She was one of two people under the age of 35. She was maybe 20.  Her candidness was so real it was impossible to keep my guard up around her. The third week BSF I felt the Spirit urge me to invite her on the mission trip our youth group was going on that summer.

Amber said yes, of course. Mission work has a big place in her heart, which is why she also said yes to babysitting my three children even though she (candidly) told me kids weren’t her thing. They still talk about the bike ride she took them on. Amber served twice on The World Race and the stories she brought back were inspiring, frightening, and hysterical.

Also, this girl can make me laugh like no other. I haven’t seen her IRL in years but her place in my heart is permanent. I’m more thankful than she knows God put her in my life.  You can find her bloggage at Ragamuffin Stuff, where her quirky humor will have you laughing while  her wisdom will keep you thinking.

Rock on, Brave Misfit.

Someday me, you, and Seal will road trip again.


 

Renewal is the theme I’ve got rolling around in my head, thanks to my favorite Midwestern Mama, Kara Shepherd. Renewal is a seemingly spiritual word, unless you’re talking about its pain in the butt connotations like renewing tags and all other annoying grown up things. When I think about renewal, I think of relief, restoration, and refreshing.
I’ve been trying to come up with a clear picture of renewal that really hits the ball out of the park with some insanely impressive idea to prove what a deep thinker I am. The only thing that keeps popping its little dreadlocked head up is Justin frickin’ Bieber.

Everyone has loved the Biebs at some point or another, whether you’re an active Belieber, a parent of one, or one of the past. Who could resist that bowl-cutted beauty belting the infamously incessant “Baby” all over the world?

Photo Credit: AndrewDallos via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: AndrewDallos via Compfight cc

The rise and fall, and rise again, of Biebs gives me this menacingly weird picture of renewal. I’m no die hard fan, but everyone knows he started out as America’s Canadian sweetheart and quickly turned into a giant letdown, being booed off the stage for his ridiculously wrong shenanigans. Recently, I’d say he has made an official come back (don’t even pretend you don’t sing the mama don’t like you song).

Bieber and renewal—where am I going with this?

The thing about renewal is this sense of repairing what once was. At its core, renewal is restorative, and once it hits, original goodness is redeemed and even bettered. Bieber is back because he’s been renewed. He was good to begin with, and although he went through some cray days, if you will, he’s back. No one wants a brand new Justin Bieber, they want the one they met nine years ago, but an even better version (please Lord). We don’t necessarily want or need a whole new thing. What’s more compelling than a brand new something is the best part of that old something being restored again, elevating what was originally meant to be.

My renewal revelation is that you and I were created good, every single person on the earth. There’s a good in you, a genuinely valuable identity that is God-breathed, specifically unique, and immensely necessary. Along the way, we’ve all gotten off our beaten paths and had ourselves a Bieber backtrack or two, but there’s renewal available always.

Renewal to restore the original you—that specific inherent special something. Renewal to call out dreams buried beneath all of the wounds, mistakes, tragedies, accidents, and wrongs. Renewal to refuel the authentic and propel you to the greater version of you. Renewal to remind and repair. Renewal to restore and remember.

Renewal isn’t about creating a brand new version of you that forgets where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Renewal is about reaching deep down into those places that are uniquely yours and breathing life back into the things that may have gotten trampled along the way. The beauty of renewal is that there’s always something worth renewing, and that it’s a journey and a process. Hopefully that takes some pressure off those trying to be something they’re not overnight.

Here’s to finding what needs renewed—it’s there, I promise. Here’s to believing that you are good and have something to offer. You have something you must offer at a time like this, when the world is desperate for people who know who they are, who believe that they are worthy, and who get that they are always being renewed.

Finally, here’s to getting all those Biebs’ songs out of your head.

Unfamiliar Territory

Guys, the stuff I’m learning in 2016 is mind boggling.

First of all, starting this blog on WordPress has been so hard and so good for me. I have to do so much thinking, though. I mean, I think all of the time but this kind of feels like being back in school.

Except that I like this.

I did not like school.

I homeschool 4 kids so there’s a lot of thinking that goes on in my noggin. The kids know I get overexcited about history (hello, get us out of the Middle Ages! There’s just too much good stuff) and that science geeks me out even when I don’t all the way understand it. The world is an absolutely fascinating place and because I worked so hard ignoring that fact when I was attending school it’s all new an shiny to me.

Learning how to do something that is just for me has been really fun. I think it’s been good for my family, too. They see that my writing is very important to me, that my ideas and vision have given rise  to creativity that I had packed away for little bit. I think my writing helps them see me as more of a person and less of an automaton. 

I’ve had to really push myself with the tech-y side of things on WordPress. I’ve watched so many tutorials I should be an expert. There has been weeping and gnashing of the teeth. I figured out that I had entered my e-mail incorrectly on my hosting site and am still trying to get that resolved. I’m working on a newsletter and my vision for Brave Misfit. I have so many ideas that I think all of the time. I have an idea notebook and sticky pads and notes on my phone. It is so amazingly fun having ideas!

The really cool thing  is that when I write I know it is the thing I was meant to do. I’ve been telling stories since I was very young, and writing stories since 4th grade. Writing is how I discover hidden things about myself, the world, my people, and my God. It’s when I feel the most connected to the person God created me to be.

I am not saying I feel closest to God when I write. I don’t. When I garden or take walks or hikes, when I serve His people, that’ when I feel closest to him.

Writing, though, is a way for me to figure out things that I may brush away as unimportant.

I believe that everyone has one thing that allows them to connect to a deeper part of themselves, that opens a door to your soul.

It could be computers, piano, reading, pipe fitting, truck driving, taking pictures, cooking, cleaning, whatever it is is yours.

Whatever your thing is do it well and do it often. Make the time to do it because if it’s important to you then it is  important. 

15801624474_75c859af0d

I think that you should find yourself in unfamiliar territory with your one thing, too. It should never, ever be old hat. If you start getting comfortable it’s a sign that you need to push yourself to be uncomfortable. That’s where growth takes place and growth is an essential part of being human.

Maybe you’re in a slump and needed some encouragement to do your one thing. If so, heed my words: just start! Don’t worry about it not being good enough or right enough for the world. It’s YOUR thing, man.

Maybe you’re in the thick of it and just need someone to say, “Keep on keepin’ on, my friend!”   I say that to you now! Your thing is significant and soul-growing so you should carry on as long as you can.

Maybe you don’t think you have a thing that’s your one thing and to you I say: Close your eyes and remember your favorite things as a kid, maybe the thing you wanted to be but were afraid to tell anyone about. You start there and just go! Your childhood you will never lead you astray. Unless your one thing as a kid was jumping off of roofs. Don’t do that, please.

So, go Brave Misfits, go into Unfamiliar Territory and do your thing.

Nobody does it like you do, my friend.

 

The Science of Motherhood

I have two kids that are driving. Like, driving a vehicle.

Two.

Two of them are driving.

I still have a 12 year old (who is great at driving me to the edge of a cliff) and a 6 year old so I’m not in empty nest territory any time soon, but I’m definitely moving into new parental territory.

Anyway, I keep thinking about the beginning of my motherhood journey. Motherhood was something I wanted but did not plan for. Lee and I had been married for about a year when I got mono, thanks to working at an after-school program for elementary school kids. I was almost three months pregnant before I realized I didn’t have mono anymore, just morning sickness.

My poor husband. He had married this wild and crazy girl who was fun loving and thought everything he did was hilarious. Lee had no clue that one pregnancy test could change a person so completely.

In typical Kara fashion I began researching all aspects of pregnancy and child rearing, which was easy because I was in college majoring in Family Studies*. I became obsessed with interested in  natural childbirth and breastfeeding. Instead of hanging out with friends we spent our time going to Bradley method classes and watching movies while I toughened my nipples with a washcloth.

Good times.

I think that washcloth was a symbol of the pain I was willing to go through. I was determined to be the best at mothering that I could possibly be, whatever the cost. When our first child came into the world I think I was as shocked as she was. Who knew an episiotomy would hurt so badly? Who knew that the washcloth I had abused myself with would be nothing in comparison to my daughter’s bad latch? Who knew that my  husband would try to sleep through the next two years of our daughter’s life pretending not to hear her cry in the night?

WHO KNEW?

I look back and I think two things: Poor Lee, and thank goodness Kiley doesn’t remember her first year because I was nuts. 

If Kiley was awake I only wanted classical music playing. I didn’t want to have a television on and if it was on I definitely didn’t want anything violent to be showing. No pacifiers, no bottles, no formula**. NO NO NO NO. Just everything NO.

Poor Lee.

Photo Credit: kygp via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: kygp via Compfight cc

The minute my urine changed the blank space on the dip stick to a positive sign my molecular structure shifted. Some dormant maternal gene rose up from deep within and insisted that I take action immediately (thus, the washcloth). Lee was on more of a delayed timer. On our way home from the hospital with our new baby girl Lee said, “Why did they just let us leave?” and he actually looked kind of scared as he continually checked the rear-view mirror.

His molecular structure didn’t shift in quite the drastic way that mine did, now that I think about it. I don’t think Lee ever had to pull the car over for fear the seat belt wasn’t tight enough on a kid, and I know he’s never worried that one of them could get sucked out the window. I don’t think he even knows what they eat when I’m not home.

Lee’s shift was a little less intense, I guess.

It’s probably a good thing our second daughter was born when our first one was just two. It forced me to chill the heck out. When you’re nursing a baby and your two year old is demolishing your apartment the t.v. seems like an angel sent from above. When you’re nursing a baby and your two year old brings you a jar of peanut butter and two spoons for lunch it counts as a picnic. Also, yes gets a lot easier when it means you could get a nap or a shower, or both if you play your cards right.

Motherhood is like riding a roller coaster: at first you’re sick to your stomach and thinking it’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done. Once you make it down that first hill, though,  you start to let up and have some fun. Suddenly the awesome ride is  over and you can’t remember what scared you so much an you jump in line to do it all over again.

At least that’s how it was for me.

Some of the new things that my molecules made happen when I first became a mom  didn’t stick. I said goodbye to the nipple-toughening washcloth,and I quit thinking that one of the kids would get sucked through the window. But I’m still pretty weird about seatbelts being buckled properly and I’ll never stop wishing that they wouldn’t watch violent television.***

I am okay with them drinking formula, though. It’s their life.

 

 

*Actually, it may not have been Family Studies just then. I changed majors 7 times before graduating with a degree in Family Studies.

**My fourth child had nothing but formula from 6 weeks on. Made me sad, but we both lived and he’s just fine.

** *Although, I do watch The Walking Dead with the hubs and two older kids. For bonding purposes only. It is violent, but also educational.

All Things New

The deeper I know Jesus, the newer I feel.

It’s nuts, really. The further in I go, the more His truth washes over me,  and the more infinite the world seems.

I’ve just come through one of those seasons when I was far away from Him but didn’t really know it. I’d started to feel so stinking old. All the specialness of life seemed like it had been squeezed out. The world honestly felt hopeless.  I was watching too much news and not reading enough of the good news. I felt like ISIS and the election and injustice looked as though they had the upper hand.

I felt knee deep in the proverbial poo.

It’s not a good place to be. Cynicism was creeping into all of my conversations and I really wanted most people to just leave me alone. I didn’t even want to chat with the deli lady at Kroger, and I like her. The world was suddenly full of irritating people. I even started working on a book titled “Everyone’s an ***hole but Me”. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?

IMG_0977
Our favorite bible is the Jesus Storybook Bible.

One night, though, I had a conversation with my youngest child that shifted everything away from me and put my focus where I needed it to be. 

He was telling me that while at a friends house he found an ‘Egyptian coffin’ in a pile of Legos.

“Oh, that’s called a sarcophagus,” I told him.

“Well, I call it a coffin,” six year old Liam said. Then he asked,  “What do you think it’s like in a coffin?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, wondering where this rabbit hole of a conversation was going. It was late and I was wanting to get caught up on Twitter.

“Well, the next time I’m in a coffin I’m going to take a sweater because I think it will be cold,” he said.

“Liam, if you’re in a coffin you won’t be alive and you won’t be cold, honey. You won’t need anything.” This was not the bedtime conversation I’d been hoping for.

“Mom, what if I am? I should take a sweater just in case.” His sincere, brown eyes pulled me away from my phone. I worked to reassure him that he would not need a sweater.

“Mom, I’m having that fear again. That when I die I’ll just shut my eyes and everything will be black and I’ll be cold.”

My heart hurt for him because that is a fear I am all too familiar with. My heart hurt because this is something that I cannot fix with peanut butter jellies and bike rides.

Liam is only six but he is a deep thinker. He won’t be pacified with answers like, “Don’t worry about it.” He wants Truth, even if it’s hard.

I climbed into bed with him and shared the promises of Christ. I shared with him that while we don’t know what heaven will be like faith in Christ guarantees an eternity with Him. I shared that the One who loved us so much he came to earth to rescue us on a cross will never leave us. I shared that the One who created us smiles when we smile and cries when cry. He promises us heaven and He will not let us down. I don’t know what it will be like, but I tell my Liam that Jesus has made my life so full of good things here, even among the hard things, that I know the world after this one will be amazing.

As I talk my little one lays his head on my shoulder, patiently listening.

“Mom, that’s enough,” he says. “I’m going to sleep now.”

His eyes close and that’s it. My little boy sleeps peacefully, his worries seemingly cared for, at least for today. I can’t stop thinking about our conversation though.

There’s always a choice: embrace the fear or embrace the Truth. I can’t choose both. Moving away from Christ is never accidental. It happens when you put your focus somewhere else, when you don’t feed the flame.

I have to be able to answer my kids’ questions honestly, truthfully, and accurately, and I can’t do that if I’m not spending time in scripture. It doesn’t make the poo go away, but reading God’s word is like wearing waders. The bad stuff won’t taint you even when you’re knee deep in it.

It’s a simple choice, really.

So I dive in deeper and when I come up for air I’m surprised to feel new.  Again.

Linking up at #TellHisStory. Click on the link to read other shared stories with Jennifer Dukes Lee.

 

 

 

Why Can’t I Be Like a Tree?

The trees in my city are in full bloom. White and pink puffiness with bursts of green popping though make it look I’m visiting another world. It’s beautiful.

Photo Credit: Manuel73 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Manuel73 via Compfight cc

These trees, they just do what they were made to do. They don’t ponder their purpose and get trapped in worrying that they’re not good enough. Trees just do what they’re made to do in each season of their life giving glory to the Creator and shade to creation.

But I’m not a tree. I ponder my purpose and I get trapped n worrying that I’m not good enough. It’s part of being human.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t give glory to my Creator, even when I feel like I’m not moving in any direction. I’m never really stuck. I am  constantly being transformed, even on the cellular level. It can feel like nothing is moving, or seem as though you’re just missing the boat. It can be easy to feel that success is a phantom lurking behind corners that I will never round.

It is not so, though. Success, according to dictionary.com, is the achievement of one’s goals.

So what happens if we shift our goals?

What if our goals aren’t wrapped up in how we look or what we do but in who we are.

Even better, what if our goals were centered on who we were created by. 

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:2 – The Message

I love this passage from Romans in almost any translation I read it, but today I really love it from The Message. “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” Yes and amen. Without intention the world can take us by the hand and lead us down all sorts of crazy roads. Before you know it you’ll be thinking that without products A, B, and C plus $xxx in your bank account you’re a loser. Even worse, without intention we can start thinking we’re the ones responsible for the blooming, that if we don’t do all the doing it won’t get done.

I may not be a tree, but focusing on God can help me be like those trees I’m watching bloom. I can do what I was created to do in a way that is authentic and just as beautiful. How it looks to the world just doesn’t matter. What size jeans I wear doesn’t matter. What my husband does for a living doesn’t matter. What my kids do with their lives doesn’t matter.

What matters is being changed from the inside out and I cannot do that, we cannot do that, if we are stuck in the world’s way of thinking. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The world is full of have-to’s and shoulds, but our Maker has nothing but grace to offer. We leave our shoulds and have-to’s at the door and enter into a relationship that offers nothing but acceptance of right where we are. 

Be a misfit. It’s a command.