five favorite things for February

Sometimes it’s the little things.

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

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.

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