authenticity, grace, humility, parenting, spiritual growth, trusting God

Clueless

At dinner the other night, my youngest said “Grown-ups know everything.”

Then, the seven year old chimed with…”No way, they only know about some things.”

I laughed to myself, and I remembered having that unbridled confidence in grown-ups. I think of all the adults I grew up around and that I considered any age of 30 and above as gray-headed and ancient and somebody’s mom, dad or teacher. In my mind as a child and early teenager, I did not consider adults to have struggles or doubts or to be at a loss for direction. They were “adults,” and they had it together. They had quick answers that were always right. (I didn’t have a category for people in prison–my life was small town sheltered.)

Then, I began growing and experiencing “real life.” Everything had structure until graduating from high school. It’s like the ages of 18-24 are a no-man’s land if you need structure and stability. We call it “freedom,” but really there was a lot of confusion in the midst. We are trying on different hats and life choices and don’t even recognize who we are in the mirror. And then, we have a diploma or a job or a ring on and supposedly, we are adults that have answers.

Bahahahahahahahahaha.

Then these words come out of our mouths…. “wait, this is it? This is what I have been preparing for? Can I get a manual? I’m sure there has been a mistake! I’m the only one who is a royal mess inside!”

What we experience is grief that life is not what we hoped or thought or were promised that it would be. Facing that loss that we experience is the first step in maturity. Some of us never make it out of the cycle of grief–looking for what we were owed. We may jump from job to job or relationship to relationship, numb ourselves with what we can buy or consume, or blame everyone for our issues, but that grief is still there lodged and real growth is stunted.

The real maturity of adulthood? Knowing and embracing we don’t have the answers within ourselves. That doesn’t mean we throw our hands up, but we examine ourselves.

A few months ago, Greg and I had our biggest parenting hurdle thus far, and we were at a complete loss as to how to lead a situation with our oldest, and we had to make a fast decision. We were stonewalled. I asked Greg…”what do we do?” He said–“I don’t know any better than you…we are making it up as we go!!!” There was a freedom in hearing him say that because I often go back into “adults should have all the answers” mode. Thank the LORD that we have people who have walked before us on this journey and we also have God’s guidance as we make decisions.

Then, one by one, I began thinking of all those adults that were there when I grew up. I thought of ministers, teachers, moms and dads, doctors, young couples. I wanted to go back and to hug them because I realized all that they were carrying when I just saw them as an adult who had it all together. They were carrying pain, doubts, insecurities, marital troubles, shame… Yet, they loved me and made me feel safe.

Adulthood–man. It has been my favorite time in life and the most terrifying and hard time in life. It has been the time that I have known my need for One beyond me in the greatest of ways. I have seen myself be a mess, and I know that I cannot put the pieces back together. When we don’t have the answers that is actually the greatest gift because it drives us to look for the One who does. And, He greets us with grace and love, and he sets the bones we have broken along the way to grow into Him. He replaces our ways of coping with His spirit and His truth. We can freely admit that we are broken and that He is the healer. And, like the children of Israel in the desert, He give us what we need for TODAY. It is a trust exercise over and over and over. We want a downloaded plan for the next 10 years, but growth and life and trust do not work that way. We have the freedom to admit where our Hope and our Strength and our Wisdom comes from. Beautifully, we can teach our children to look to Jesus because life will not be what they expect or want it to be, but there is a deeper joy in the midst if they walk into the grief instead of running from it.

community, grace, New year, parenting, thankfulness, trusting God, Uncategorized

2018 Year-End Ebenezer Awards

My counselor often says–“take time to write that down, Jen.”

How can we so easily forget the beautiful provisions and lessons that are so life changing? We have amnesia of the moment.  Whatever is right in front of us gets our attention.

So, I am writing it down–“blogging it forth”–“setting the Ebenezer up” to remind me of moments of thankfulness this year.                                                   It has been a huge year in my heart–growth-a-palooza with a side of a long way to go.  

In NO particular order, the Ebenezers go to…

*A reentry back into writing.  My soul was missing the way that writing makes me dig and process.  For a 7 on the Enneagram (which tries to avoid all pain), you can see this is a healthy practice for me.  I can take myself WAY LESS SERIOUSLY than I did when I started this blog 11 years ago January 1.  

*517VADWLEqL._AC_UL160_514-Br1DhSL._AC_UL160_The Enneagram.  Seriously, I think in terms of these 9 numbers now.  If you are thinking…”oh yeah I took this cute little test on that,” Stop. Right. Now. and get “The Road Back to You” by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron.  There are several good podcasts too! A test will not suffice.  This is a helpful tool for understanding and growth!

*The growth of new and seasoned Business Partners on the Rodan + Fields journey.  It has been exciting and such a joy to encourage and grow with these women and my team all over the country.  Even more than ever, I realize that God expanded ministry opportunities through RF instead of closing me R&F(1of1)-59off to them with the disbanding of Women’s Discipleship Concepts 4 years ago.  The highlight was a retreat for some of my directs in April. It ended up, through the Spirit’s leading, to be a time of rest in the Lord, an encouragement for souls on the journey, and time of forming a deep community.

*Puzzles:  I am so thankful that I got a “hankering” for a puzzle one day, and the rest is documented in a big pile of puzzle boxes in our downstairs bedroom.   I know I am a nerd.  Yep.It is a practice that makes me set aside time to just be.  That is sooo important for our hearts, mommas.  (and, PS, I am donating some to an assisted living–in case you think I need to add “puzzle hoarder” to my profile.)


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*The freedom and financial ability to do some fun trips with the boys AND do Boat Club as a family. A little Chattanooga trip to explore for Spring Break, A full-fledged vacation to the beach for a week (first legit vacation we have paid for), some Smokey Mountain fun for Fall Break at Dollywood, Season Passes to Dollywood…  I want presence, experiences, and adventure with my boys.  Who knew that everything would be so expensive???  This has been a HUGE blessing from my continued growth in my RF business.

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*A special trip with my Mom and Sister to go to my nephew’s wedding in Spokane, Washington.  What a beautiful part of the country.  I am so Thankful for time with family.

I loved the enriching conversations that this trip brought with strangers.  I am reminded that God wants us to engage the world with His Beauty and Truth, and we get so bogged down with what’s right in front of us that we miss out.

*My oldest son’s Kindergarten and 1st-grade year…I was so scared.  Sensory Processing Disorder is no joke, and we have worked so hard to help him build resiliency and coping skills. I am beyond thankful for our school, the wonderful teachers and community, our OT, ac6646139525ea749b261b878deb0577Mrs. Kathy, the children’s ministry at our church, and family friends that have encouraged our little guy so much.  He is a different kid than when we started this journey over four years ago.  The motto around our house is “you can do hard things!”  Including the parenting part for Greg and me.  There was a HUGE marker in this journey in December as we got to reflect on how much growth has come in our buddy–HUGE thankfulness to God!

*RF Convention in New Orleans.  It was a beautiful and fun week with 30 members of our team, countless dear friends that are sideline sisters, and friends from all over the country that I have made on this journey.   It was so fun to walk the stage and go to spectacular parties.  Dressing up is fun, and I rarely do that in life! However, It was a IMG_9351monumental week in my heart for none of those reasons.  God intricately brought restoration to so many parts of me, and I straight up was overwhelmed by His Fathering, His pursuit, and His deep love for me.    Someday I might tell the bigger story, but I do not feel released to yet.  I am reminded that He can use anything anywhere to do His work in us.  Hilariously, I had a worshipful time in a city known for its darkness reminding me that His light pierces through our darkness.

IMG_8481IMG_8484*Y’all…I did a scary thing that I dreamed about.  I got the opportunity and encouragement from my friend and business partner, Lindsey, and I pressed go LIVE on a training platform for 180,000 RF consultants. The topic in April was “Times I almost quit: Building the art of resilience,” and the topic in August was “Get Real Thursday: examining the posture you are taking toward business and life.”  I am amazed at the personal growth in public speaking I have gotten over the last year and a half, in particular.  Every time someone asked me to stretch to speak at something new, I thought 2 things:  1) that is not my strength–I don’t do this!  and 2) I don’t have anything special to say that anyone has not said (aka someone else could do it better!)          Here’s the truth…both of those statements are probably true, but we only grow when we stretch to new things.  It is uncomfortable, exhilarating, challenging, full of anxiety, and yet, if I had listened to my fears, I would have missed out in sad ways.        Note 1: Live videos always choose the greatest screenshots–eye roll here.  Note 2:  I also discovered the spray tan the 2nd time around. 

* The growth of my sweet, sassy, smart boys.  I am so thankful that Greg keeps a running list of their hilarious quotes.  Every day I think about the slipping time, and I am sobered by the responsibility and privilege of being their Momma (yep–over my dead body will they call me anything else!!).  Greg is an amazing Daddy–I need him for balance:). As I have read back over the earlier years of my blog, I remember that there was a time that I surrendered that they would not be here.  Maybe it’s my age, their preciousness, or my period of infertility, but I am so thankful for their lives and this opportunity.  

The truth is, as I reflect more, I will remember more.  Why?  I so easily forget the beauty of God’s hand in my life.  What about you?  What are your Ebenezers for the year?   

Anxiety, authenticity, comparison, discernment, grace, insecurity, parenting, the gospel, transformation by truth

A good mom…

Well, it’s building again.  That pressure to do the right thing, to do it the best way, to prove your worth is on the rise.  Where does it come from?  From women’s mouths, popular books, sub-cultural norms to your ears–actually straight to your heart.  The words marinate in your heart until you believe it and act in pride or until you are shamed because you are not enough and you embarrassed because you have fallen short again.  This must be something really essential–you think.  Or has someone else pushed it as essential?

Motherhood.  Until I was first baptized into this “secret club,” I never realized the pressure to fit there, the pressure to perform.  It starts almost as soon as you get pregnant or fill out the adoption papers.  “Surely you are going to do….A thoughtful mother would only plan this way….Are you going to feed your child that?….You let your children go this long between feedings?”   “I will only do natural birth…  You are going to put THAT into your body?”  “You are going to name your child that?”  “Godly mothers do…I only use natural products…”

I was 36 when I gave birth after many years of infertility, and I will be 38 with my second.    I had some maturity under my belt, but that little teenage girl who was worried and timid about “fitting in” and would did not know who she was looked me in the eye in the mirror as all of these expectations came rushing toward me.  I had NEVER felt so much pressure.  There was a lot of opportunity to feel so much pride in my decisions–when I thought I chose to do something “right.”  There was also a lot of opportunity for me to feel “less than” from the club of mothers around me–things I chose or did not choose or could or could not do.

It is interesting how many trends can become en vogue in just a short span of years.  Right now, I see many young women in their twenties in the serious evangelical realm going for natural and home births.  I totally respect people for choosing that for themselves.  This is obviously something you pray and decide seriously about (as with many decisions in motherhood and child-rearing.)   I have then seen women who are crushed and feel like they have failed at a major point when a health issue prevents this (and they have to have a C-section or go to the hospital) and they lose that goal.   I  see people who are drawn to sleep training and parent-directed (AKA Babywise verses people who are very into attachment parenting (AKA Dr. Sears).  There can be a lot of judgement and shaming between those camps–I felt that when we decided to carry through with a Babywise philosophy.    There is MUCH MUCH MUCH pressure to exclusively breastfeed–which is a wonderful thing, but the pressure I took on myself from outside sources and wanted to work for me nearly crushed me as my body would not produce what was needed.  I truly believe the pressure that I internalized (yes–I take the responsibility) nearly put be over the edge with such deep postpartum that I could not see straight.  I could  go on and on and on…You get the point.

This is my concern…Somewhere along the way, we have made choices into essentials of our identity. “If I do not do it this way, my whole identity is shattered.”  We get on this proving ground and lose our minds and hearts.  And, as children grow, the proving ground changes but we still act as if our identities are essential to our decisions within the parenting realm.   It may be how we discipline our children or how we interact with them or what we expect from them at certain ages or what we expose them to (homeschool, private school, public school.)  I’m kind of getting the hives just writing this.  Because we cling to making the “right” choices as our identity, then we must enforce that with others.  We judge them in our mind, hearts and with our mouths because they are not doing things our way.  We think they are less than because in order for us to continue to gain our identity and worth from these things, they have to be wrong or get on board and think we are right.  We make things essential that are side issues.

So, as the pressure mounts, yet again, on this uphill climb in pregnancy and mothering, I remind me and others of what is essential.  The essential piece to our identity is the Gospel–whether we are single, married, jobless, parents, CEO or stay at home mom.  We do not prove our worth or acceptance to God by what philosophy we adhere to or birth plan we choose, whether our children sleeps in the bed with us until they are 6 or is in the crib the first night, whether we breast or bottle feed, whether we give immunizations or feed kraft macaroni or organic.  All of us are going to fail as parents because we are human, fallen, sinful creatures.  We can lean hard into the Lord from day one and do everything “right”, and our children will sin and rebel and break our hearts.  We can royally try to do it on our own without the Lord, and our children are going to sin and rebel and mess up.  It is what we cling to and  remember in our triumphs and our failures that will shape our hearts and our children’s hearts.  Who does our help come from?  Where do we go for our essential identity?  How in our failures and our children’s failures do we point them toward the hope of the Gospel?

Our children will get the message from us loud and clear as to what we think is essential to our identity (and, in turn, theirs).  They see what we cling to and what crushes us when it falls apart.  So, from the beginning, I encourage those on the journey with me to be on the journey together, encouraging instead of accusing, making the gospel essential and not side decisions, loving instead of comparing.  Will you come with me?