five favorite things for February

I just wrote the most depressing post. And then I decided nobody needs to start February that way.

So instead, I went back to a picture I took the other day of all the lovely things I had arranged on my table. And I bring you five favorite things for February — and the reasons why. (Not including the Philodendron.)

Oh, the post got better. It just started out so sad. Like Adele. You don’t need that today, either.

Anyway, here they are:

1. Mintgreen’s 2016 planner

With all of my heart, I want to do a bullet journal. I really do. I may still go there. But I picked up this cute little pink floral 4 by 5 inch planner for under $5 at Walmart and as long as I do my job of writing the actual-for-real-right time down, it’s doing its job.

Also, I’m the sort of person who absolutely loves to organize things on paper but not actually do them myself. So, lists…I have them. But making them cute and artsy won’t make me more productive for longer than a week.*

*things I’ve learned about myself over a span of 46 years

2. Pooch & Sweetheart mini books

I picked these up at Michael’s craft store for $1.50 each. They’re total knock-offs of Katie Daisy’s artwork, though. So while they’re adorable, I wonder… Anyway, you should visit Katie Daisy’s site and watch the video of her painting. My sister and I decided she’s like Beatrix Potter.

Anyway, I use them to write down all the things I write down when I am out and about, which is a lot of things. Ideas, mostly. Bits and phrases that come into my head. And they are the same size as my planner, which is pleasing. And they all fit in my purse.

 

3. 52 Silly Things to do When You are Blue 

We’ve had this deck for a while, but I pulled it out to see if I was doing any of them. Turns out, I already do a lot of the things suggested on the cards. Rearranging furniture and cleaning out a closet has always made me feel better.

But my February favorites are: Feed Somebody and Walk a Dog. The walk a dog part is way harder these days than it sounds because our dog is a 7 month old, 70 pound, ball of crazy who requires two people, a harness, a Cesar Milan leash, and the strength of two horses to keep under control. But at least we get outside, right?
But food… food is fun! I made beef bourguignon for the first time in my life last week — and for a group of friends! If you decide to make this amazing meal, note two things: 1. If your family hates onions (even gloriously carmelized in bacon) or mushrooms, don’t make it for them. 2. The recipe calls for Cognac, which I did not use. And also 1 Tablespoon of salt. Seriously. I’ve never seen a recipe for anything other than pickles that required that much salt. I didn’t want to kill anybody, so I put in about 1/4 tsp and it turned out just fine.

4. Whatever is Lovely: A coloring book for reflection and worship 

Grown up coloring books are all the rage these days. My friend Maggie gave this one to me so we could color together. She has every sort of pen/pencil/crayon available to coloring sorts of persons and we had a great time talking and “arting.” I have crayons. Which aren’t so awesome for coloring small spaces.

I also colored with my daughter and my sister & my niece, during which time we discovered that some of the pictures create more stress than calm — because you have to make color choices and sometimes you regret them. So if you pick up one of these books expecting calm, and you’re even a teeny-weeny bit of a perfectionist, start small.

5. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

This book is not in the picture because I bought it for my Kindle, which I now regret. Some books you just need to have in hardcopy. (I can’t peruse an electronic version during a book club discussion — even the end notes deal didn’t help.)

Anyway, For the Love is where I got the idea to make that crazy Beef Bourguigon thing. She made it sound like so much fun — and for me, it was. I am at a place in life where cooking can be really fun again — it better be because I’ve got three two-legged bottomless pit teenage boys to feed. And also, I love cooking in my kitchen. And also, I’m seriously into carmelized onions. (BTW, there are only maybe three recipes in this book, it’s a collection of essays.)

Among other wonderful essays on everything from running your own race to poverty tourism, I found this a perfect read. Her essay on turning 40 made me want to jump up and down and shout “AMEN, SISTER!” But my 20-something, 30-something, and just a bit older than me friends all agreed: humor + thought provoking + encouraging + Jesus = good stuff.

I pretty much highlighted every word of For the Love, but this bit is particularly inspiring for me today. It’s in the part that’s a letter to her kids:

You’d be surprised how powerful kindness actually is. I am not being dramatic: you can save hearts and lives with grace.

— Jen Hatmaker, For the Love: fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards

* ** * *

I’ve got ten more things I could add to this list, but the sun came out while I was writing, so that means on to other things. Like dog walking.

But I will get back to talking about Adele before Valentine’s Day. I promise.

 

the importance of cheerleaders

photo cred: College of San Mateo Library
photo cred: College of San Mateo Library

I was in Ceres, California last Monday when I heard Glenn Frey had passed away. And the mental collision was so real.

I did two years of high school in that town. And one of those years, I tried out for cheerleading.

We had to do a yell routine, of course, and I was astonishingly not good at that part. But I was even worse at the dance routine — which was “The Heat is On” sung by Glenn Frey. It’s been 30 years, but I can still dance the first sets of beats.

These moves have provided endless entertainment for my family and a few select friends over the years. I’m sure I remember them so well because it is the only dance routine I ever learned… Our cheerleaders at Ceres High School were awesome dancers. And I was an awesome, rhythmless, regular Baptist.

(Oh, BTW, my sincere apologies to the friends I would have loved to see in California, but it was a whirlwind one-day visit for my Grandma’s 90th birthday. Go Grandma!!! *insert pom pom shake here*)

I always wanted to be a cheerleader. I love, love, love synchronization. Whether it’s dance moves, or coordinating colors, or plot lines. It’s all so lovely to watch. Movement, staging, timing = favorite things.

When I think about why cheerleading was so hard for me (high school was not my first attempt to make the squad), I can acknowledge now that, in addition to being terribly uncoordinated, I’ve always been too self-conscious. There’s a certain amount of just going for it that a person needs in order to cheer well.

But, I’m getting pretty decent at cheering from the sidelines these days — as long as I keep it under a certain decibel. My yell is weird. And sort of screamy. The voice comes out not at all what I imagine it to be in my head. Something about watching my babies do stuff out there just makes me lose my self-consciousness and yell out their names. Which they just LOVE!

As much as they may hate it in the moment, they will remember mom (and dad) shouting praises from the sidelines for the rest of their lives.

Because praise, encouragement, cheer… everyone needs this. Everyone.

In fact, nothing simultaneously makes me angry and breaks my heart more than hearing parents yell from the sidelines in angry, disgusted tones at their kids.  I’ve been at games where I wanted to tell some parents to GO HOME. I cannot imagine listening to anything more discouraging than your voice. Your baby has run 18 miles today in the blazing sun. Give him a break!

All of us need cheerleaders. We do. Especially at critical points of life when discouragement clings to you, sucks you in, and threatens to drown you like quicksand.

I’ve been reading “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker and in one chapter she puts on her old cheerleader voice to tell her readers some things. I needed to read this pep talk and maybe you do, too.

Here’s what she said that just lifted me right out of my pajamas, into the shower to ponder, and back into my bathrobe (keepin it real here) to write this post:

We will cheer each other on, refusing to speak doubt into our gifts. When you are scared, I will declare, ‘You can do this.’ When you whisper a dream, I’ll holler through a bullhorn that you are brave and wonderful and important! When I am beaten down, you will remind me that I am an approved worker with no shame….Let’s do this. Let’s fulfill the good work we’ve been commissioned to. Silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker. You are. Jesus made you so. If God surveyed the cross and declared it finished, then it wasn’t sufficient for everyone but you. If Jesus covered it all, then He covered it all….If you need to deal, then deal…Forgive, release, acknowledge, confront, feel the feelings, let something go, believe the truth, whatever you need to do. Then dust your hands off and get ready to go….This really is your one wild and precious life. You matter so much. You are writing a good story for your children. Your community and church need you, your neighbors and family need you, God adores you and Jesus is obsessed with you. Here we are, your community of women running this race together, proud of you, moved by you.

-Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

I need people in my life who cheer for me. My husband, my kids, relatives — they do an amazing job at this. And oh how I love my dear friends who speak even the smallest words of encouragement to me. Friends who believe I can. And should.

I’ve got enough negative words in my own head about myself. I don’t need more. You don’t need more. We’re stuck in an ugly, losing game sometimes. Heckled by our own hearts.

Maybe you feel beaten down and discouraged, too. Maybe you don’t have cheerleaders in your life, or your cheerleaders are fighting their own battles. Maybe you need to do what I’m going to do and Stuart Smalley that quote from Jen Hatmaker right onto your bathroom mirror and “silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker.”

And if you’re dealing with a husband, wife, child who is struggling with addiction (or anything else for that matter) take some time to think about your role in their life.

Are you the voice on the sidelines (maybe you need to get back to the sidelines) calling out every wrong move, every failed attempt when they’re fighting to get on their feet? Or do you cheer them on toward victory?

Cheering on someone you love through recovery takes selflessness and patience. We have to set aside our uncertainties, insecurities, fears and allow hope to fill us and give us grace and encouraging words. And pray for wisdom. Lots and lots of wisdom.

I suppose the same is true for any relationship, really.

Encouragement revives.

* * * * *

Who in your life needs your words of encouragement? A child, a spouse, a pastor, a friend?

Sometimes, you just need to go for it.

But maybe not with pom poms.

…encourage one another and build each other up…

1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

 

 

 

Everyone loves a comeback

The life-changing magic of never giving up…

I can’t believe it’s playoff time again.

I can’t believe I care...

(See what I did there?)

If I’m watching a sport, one of my kids is playing. Or it’s the last 5 minutes of a college basketball game… But I’m talking about football (can you believe it, Dad?). Hang with me though, if you’re a hater. There’s a point.

Up here in Washington, they get a little excited about their Seahawks. And it’s a little contagious. Okay, a lot contagious. And not just because I live with some serious fans.

There are friendships forged in the hardest of times. When we’re together, our conversations are often about the nearest and dearest to our hearts — our families, our faith, our prayers. Football doesn’t fit.

But last January, we talked about the game.

Over tea. Over coffee. Over lunch…

And we might have gotten a little teary about 3:52 and 19 to 7.

If you’re a Seattle Seahawks fan, you know what I mean.

On January 18, 2015, chances are, if you live in Seattle, you listened to the conference playoff game on the radio because your power was out. If you were lucky enough to have TV, you kind of wished you didn’t. Because it was bad. Too many turnovers. Too painful to watch.

Chances are you reminded yourself we’re a second half team and then you got giddy because the guy who’s supposed to hold the ball for the kicker threw it instead to a guy you’d never seen before — a trick play like kids do in pickup games on playgrounds — and it worked. (This is what it sounded like on Seattle radio.) You dared to believe…and then…another interception.

The clock ticked away. Fail after fail.

Chances are, you turned off the radio once Steve Raible began to sound hopeless. Or you changed the TV channel. Or you left the stadium…

win probability 2
graph cred: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201501180sea.htm

With 5 minutes left in the game, the Seahawks had a .1% chance of winning.

Point One Percent.

The odds were decidedly NOT in their favor.

The Seahawks got the ball again with 3:52 left to play in the game. And they had to get two touchdowns in order to win.

No way.

It seemed impossible. And it was. (see graph for statistical proof)

But when the Seahawks got the ball again, with 3:52 left in the game and the score was 19  to 7, something changed.

Marshawn Lynch moved up the field 14 yards in those golden shoes and suddenly, it was on. And Kam Chancellor was running down the sidelines yelling to Russell Wilson that Doug is open! Throw it to Doug! like he’s 14 years old. And you saw the team light up with him. And then Russell Wilson ran in for the touchdown with 2:13 left in the game.

And the strangely sad, silent crowd — normally infamous for their volume — rallied, too. Even while the commentators were claiming the victory for the Packers. How awesome is it that even though we’re going to lose this game, they’re not giving up? We said to ourselves. What a great example for the children.

And then, my goodness. A rookie gets the ball back in an onside kick. And now you dared to hope, not breathing at all. And holy cow, when those gold-soled feet ran 24 yards to score ANOTHER touchdown with just 95 seconds left in the game and you could hear the whole neighborhood cheer because what is even happening??

And then, a desperation pass as Wilson ran out of time and threw the ball up on his way down but the other Willson miraculously caught it and put the Seahawks ahead by 3 points.

Are you kidding me? (that’s my Steve Raible impression, right there)

But wait. Nope. Way too much time left… funny how that happens…and the Packers wanted it so bad. And now the game is tied and going into overtime and you just. want. it. to. be. over. Because good grief, you DIDN’T EVEN CARE. And now you do. And the tension of overtime is way too much…

But Seattle’s so awake now in overtime. Wilson to Lynch. Wilson to Baldwin. Wilson to Lynch. Wilson to Baldwin. And then a beautiful thing…

Every time Russell Wilson threw to Jermaine Kearse in that game it failed. Every. Time. All four interceptions were intended for Kearse. But both Wilson and Kearse have the guts to try again.

Chances are, if you’re  a Seahawks fan, you maybe cried just a bit when the guy who’d played the worst game of life up til a few minutes before hit his knees and gave God the glory. Because you know he must have prayed that ball into Kearse’s hands for the win. And maybe you cried a little more when he said he wished his dad had been there to see it.

Chances are, when the shock wore off and the win sank in, you realized that you just saw something happen in real life that only happens in the movies.

And you started thinking about the things you think only have a fraction of a percent of turning out well.

About the hard things. The times you’ve failed and can’t bear to try again. The times you’ve wanted to give up on that kid, that man because chances are the chances are impossible and the odds are against.

I wonder as I write this, What sparked that unbelievable Seattle comeback? What fueled it? Was it the 12th Man? Was it their roar of encouragement at the slightest hint of turning things around? Was it the injured superstar players who refused to leave the game? Was it Pete Carroll, good old positive Pete who didn’t give up on Russell Wilson and pull him out of the game?Was it Russell Wilson who just kept at it over and over until he got it right?

Everyone loves a comeback, but not everyone has the guts to believe it can happen and see it through to the end.

Sometimes, you just need to see with your own eyes and feel the impossible.

That’s what we said over tea. Over coffee. Over lunch. Even if it’s football. Because it’s not really about the game at all.

It’s about hope. About how it’s never over til it’s over. About how the impossible CAN happen in real life. About how encouragement may come from the most unlikely places. About how even the strongest fall and have to pick themselves up and keep on fighting. About how what you believe about yourself affects your actions. It’s about throwing the ball one more time to a guy who’s missed over and over and that one more time is the most important time of all but you’re giving him another chance.

It’s about never leaving the game early.

Never give up. Never. Ever. Ever. Not on yourself. Not on that friend. And mama, don’t ever give up on your kid.

It may take perseverance. It may take a miracle. But comebacks do happen and they are beautiful.

Dave and me as farmers
Me and my comeback guy.

P.S. GO ‘HAWKS!

(12th Man Flag from Seattle Seahawks http://www.seahawks.com/wallpaper)

good enough

 

Last year.

Last year, we settled into our first home, bought after many, many years of trying to fix the past. Out of the woods and into the sunshine.

Last year, I said goodbye to a regular paycheck, venturing out on my own. Learning trust again. Finding unexpected blessings.

Last year, we finally gave a kid his Christmas wish of eight years: a dog. He earned the money and we said yes.

Last year, we renewed and strengthened some friendships and said yes as often as possible to being with them. Our home. Your home. Church.

This year…

I’m excited to start a new year and am setting out to reach some long time goals. Thankful for the people beside me who are doing the same.

Dropping some weights along the way, and some of this post shared here is exactly what I needed to start this January 1.

Perfectionism is a torment. And I don’t know if you’re battling it too, but it wreaks havoc in my personal and creative life.

Never good enough. For all sorts of messy reasons.

Perfectionism is a thief of joy. Joy, my one word for 2016. I love one word. Invite was my word for 2015 and it did wonders. Opened doors.

Time to step through them.

Going to put more of me out there this year. Going to take walks. Going to publish things I’ve written – online or otherwise. Going to believe in good enough.

Starting here.

“Sometimes you have to accept that you’ll never be acceptable enough for some people. And whether you accept that as their issue or yours — is up to you.” -Ann Voskamp