Thoughts

What You Lose When You Compare

I’ve been having this conversation in my head for a while. It seems like we all compare ourselves to others–or others to ourselves–more often than we might say out loud. At least, I’ll say that’s true for me. The things I compare are not always the normal things…I’m not much for fancy cars or houses. Simple is fine with me. But I do compare. Even when I don’t mean to. Even when I don’t want to.

I see friends post snapshots of their lives on Facebook. Trips to exotic places or delicious food from high-class restaurants, and suddenly have a pang of discontent with my little life. I see moms post pictures of their summer activities and think they must be doing something engaging, exciting, and fun with their kids every single day of the summer, while I wonder if my kids will someday tell stories of long days of never-ending summer boredom at our house. I might run into an acquaintance at Costco who has a toddler with a cute outfit on, and a darling first haircut,  while my children hang off of all sides of the cart with mis-matched clothes and unbrushed hair and wish I had found the gumption to get us a little more together before venturing out. I see the happy, successful, picture-perfect moments and think that perfection must surely extend into every area of their lives, while over here, I’m a mess, tired to the bone, going nowhere except the grocery store, and feeling like there is rarely a time I measure up.

http://solacearts.com

There is a well known quote by Theodore Roosevelt…”Comparison is the thief of joy.” It pops up in my life in different places. It’s a great quote, and I do think it’s true. But thinking a little deeper, I think comparison steals more from us than only joy (which is a travesty all by itself).

What are the other things you lose when you compare?

Confidence. You can be doing the best that you can with what you’ve got for that day (here, here all ye moms on 2 hours of sleep), and valiantly so, but when you come up against that comparison thing, you lose all steam and crumble in defeat and self-pity, starting to believe that you cannot do what you were clearly already doing. Awesomely serving your family.

Courage. It takes a lot of guts to tackle parenthood. Or workplaces. Or dreams. And if you waste a minute comparing your journey to someone else’s to your own detriment, your courage slinks away and it can be hard to get it back.

Opportunities. Seriously. When you’re looking through the ‘noculars’ (as my kids call them), at your neighbors yard, all these opportunities can be whizzing by your face and you can’t see them. Opportunities to grow, to serve someone else, to do important, meaningful, or fulfilling things. And the problem is, you won’t even know what you’ve missed most of the time.

Friendships. Be honest, how many times have you seen someone who looks happy and amazing, and you think to yourself, “She’s way too cool. She would never want to be my friend.” Yeah, I’ve thought that. And I still feel that way sometimes. But I’ve learned that sometimes (or most times) there’s so much more to a person than what you see on the outside, whether they are happy and outgoing or more melancholy and shy. And some of my dearest and most meaningful friendships are with women who I may have missed if I was trying to match us up side-by-side, looking for commonalities and comparing what little I actually knew about them.

I’m sure there are more things we lose out on when we compare. But maybe these few will get you thinking about how to approach those comparing thoughts a little differently. Instead of comparing, try connecting. Reach out and make an unexpected friend. Instead of feeling ashamed about your not-togetherness, laugh about it, and know that every mom out there has not-together moments. Lots of them. Instead of wishing you had things that you don’t, take steps toward doing things that bring you joy and bring joy to others. And when you look in the mirror, hear God say to you, “You are beautiful just the way you are.”

 

The Stories We Do

I’ve been away from the blog for a few days. My mind is active with new ideas and new vision for the coming months as it relates to my creative work, most specifically photography, but also sewing, writing, and kid projects. I go through cycles of creativity…spending weeks or months doing a little here and there and then a burst of energy and inspiration hits and I’m lost in a sea of thoughts and daydreams and lists and a totally insatiable desire to roll out a new creative piece in whatever form I’m working on at the moment. Unfortunately that means my whole home routine falls to the wayside and I find myself at three in the afternoon wondering where the day went, up to my ears in dishes and the messes that spring up around the house when the kids more-or-less entertain themselves while I’m deep in thought for hours on end. I’m not totally proud of the fact that they don’t have my full attention on these daydreaming days, but the truth is, I think it’s actually as good for them as it is for me. There is less bickering (because they know I’m just going to tell them to work it out) and they really are content to imagine and play together without needing me to pull out one activity after another to entertain them.

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I’ve been thinking about the stories we tell with our lives and creative work. I don’t just mean in the art we create (although that is a big part of what I’m thinking about for myself), not just the words that we use to tell stories, but all the things that are created through our action or inaction. How we create meals to nourish and fill, curate home spaces for growing and learning, how we build relationships by taking risks to step out of our comfort zones and into someone else’s world…to see from new perspectives. How we make a life with a spouse and how the decisions we make together mold and shape our river’s path to the ocean. How we speak loud without words what we really value by what we do and don’t do with our time, talents, and resources.

The story I’ve been telling for so many years is changing. I feel like the words of amazing grace are hitting in a deeper place than ever before. I once was blind but now I see. So many things. I was rejected. Low. Lost. Hurt. Broken. I cried out for anyone to notice me and tell me I was important. Loved. Spent all my energy trying to meet expectations (my own or others’) that never led to satisfying fulfillment or gold stars, but mostly led to disappointment after disappointment and the need to dig deeper and do more to fill the hole. Doing more isn’t the answer. Doing better isn’t the answer either. I see, possibly for the first time in the clearest way, that God’s story expressed inside my story is one of freedom, peace, and complete surrender to what He has for me…which is admittedly easy to say and much harder to do.

Instead my story is becoming one of low, found, restored, healed, and eyes fixed of Jesus. Notice the low part stays the same. I think low is something we really need to pay attention to. Emptying ourselves out, laying ourselves low at His feet so we can hear what He speaks and receive what He gives…both of which are often missed if we are not in the right position before Him, both of which can be easily misunderstood if we don’t understand His upside-down ways. I’m learning God’s expectations and desires for me are more simple (not easy) and clear than I make them.

I’ve learned that it’s not enough to speak a story out loud for it the story to change you. You have to live the story, to do the story, for the whole point of the story to be made real. What this means for me is that I have to live the faith I talk about having. As I daily surrender and listen for His voice and do what He says, I am made more like Him. Pouring out myself like He poured out Himself, all because of love.

Setting Up the Pins

Total love affair with the music of Sara Groves. Well, one album at least. I haven’t stopped listening to Fireflies and Songs long enough to listen to any other albums of hers. Every song is great and speaks volumes to me. Most for deeper-heart reasons, but this one is just simple goodness. It helps me remember that it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing…there are treasures to be found, riches to be mined, and a sweet blessings that come when I just do what is in front of me with diligence and joy. For me, the pins are the staple household chores…laundry, dishes, sweeping, and setting order to the house. They never have been my favorite tasks, but just hopping to ’em seems to set everything else in the right place for the day, and really, when I’m not dragging my feet and finding every other thing I could be doing, they get done faster than I think they will. Anyway, I highly recommend this album. And now I’m off to do the morning dishes!

saragroves

Setting Up the Pins

man in a silk tie heads downtown
setting up the pins for knocking em down
people in cars all rushing around
setting up the pins

let’s get rich find a way around
setting up the pins for knocking em down
we’ll get gadget with a whirring sound 
for setting up the pins

everyone everywhere some way some how
are setting up the pins for knocking em down

you can find joy in the fertile ground
setting up the pins and knocking em down
you can try to fight it till you’re anger drowned
setting up the pins

everyone everywhere some way some how
are setting up the pins for knocking em down
it can feel simple but it’s really profound
setting up the pins

rent a tent, build a stage, throw a party, get a gown
buy a ticket, rent a car, pack a bag and leave town,
cook a dinner, clean the kitchen hit the light
brush your teeth, read a book, say a prayer good-night

everyone everywhere some way some how
are setting up the pins for knocking em down
it can feel simple but it’s really profound…

my grandmother had a working song
hummed it low all day long
sing for the beauty that’s to be found
in setting up the pins and knocking em down

When Things Become Clear

I don’t know if you can relate to the feeling of being ‘in a fog’, but I have to say, I’ve been there for a lot of years of my life. In most recent years, I have been in the ‘mommy fog’ of the early years with my kids where the combination of disrupted sleep, compromised brain cells (I have to be real–the tack-sharp memory disappeared with the first pregnancy, and I have yet to see it return), and the sheer volume of tasks to be done in a day make it hard to start and finish one task, or even one thought without a really concerted effort. For example, I sat down 2 hours ago to begin this post and promptly got distracted with approximately 100 other things…and my children are even sound asleep in their beds and are unable to distract me.

http://solacearts.com

The fog is a familiar place for many, I hear. Bumbling through life with some sense of direction (or maybe not), but also with a lot of questions and uncertainties, wondering if we’re making the right choices or doing the right things. Obviously some choices are clearly right or wrong from the outset. But a lot of choices are more ambiguous….like the question ‘which one do you like better?’ Is there really a wrong answer to that?

As I mentioned, for the past few years I have lived in the mommy fog. Changing, feeding, bathing, rocking, nursing, cleaning, driving, cooking. Many days all a blur and spent on auto-pilot, just doing what I had to in order to make it to the end of the day. I found my own ways to ‘escape the madness’ for a few blessed moments via my hidden sugar stash, afternoon movie time, mandatory naps for all (which can no longer happen without dire late-night consequences), time on facebook or editing photos. Normal stuff. And while I don’t think any of those ‘escapes’ are bad in and of themselves, I did start to notice an increasingly ugly attitude in my heart toward my kids was something more like, “Can we just skip past this hard part where you need so much of my attention and energy and get to the easy part when I won’t have to physically do so much for you so I can do the other things I want to do?” Just honest.

http://solacearts.com

And then I bumped into a few reality checks. Time is short. The future is uncertain. Today is what I have.

I feel the weight of the gift of this moment. This home. These children. And each day I have the choice to escape to my own world or press in to theirs…to do the same tasks I was already doing, only with a new perspective, a new joy, and in the process, discover a lot of things I was missing in the fog. I have discovered a clarity and a deep sense of purpose as I have become the homemaker I never wanted to be, or at least, never set out to be. And truthfully, as I have invested more of myself in the mundane tasks of mothering, seeing them less as necessary tasks and more as a willing investment in the health and wholeness of my family, I have noticed that each of my children, my husband, and even myself have a sharpened sense of direction moving forward, deep inner peace, and a lightness to our days. Lots of days are still hard…but not nearly as hard as when I had no idea why in the world I was put here at this place, with these responisbilities. Somehow, understanding that tilling the soil, planting the seeds, and watering the ground makes it possible for God to bless and grow something truly beautiful in your field, it makes the hard work worthwhile.

When Things Become Clear

I don’t know if you can relate to the feeling of being ‘in a fog’, but I have to say, I’ve been there for a lot of years of my life. In most recent years, I have been in the ‘mommy fog’ of the early years with my kids where the combination of disrupted sleep, compromised brain cells (I have to be real–the tack-sharp memory disappeared with the first pregnancy, and I have yet to see it return), and the sheer volume of tasks to be done in a day make it hard to start and finish one task, or even one thought without a really concerted effort. For example, I sat down 2 hours ago to begin this post and promptly got distracted with approximately 100 other things…and my children are even sound asleep in their beds and are unable to distract me.

http://solacearts.com

The fog is a familiar place for many, I hear. Bumbling through life with some sense of direction (or maybe not), but also with a lot of questions and uncertainties, wondering if we’re making the right choices or doing the right things. Obviously some choices are clearly right or wrong from the outset. But a lot of choices are more ambiguous….like the question ‘which one do you like better?’ Is there really a wrong answer to that?

As I mentioned, for the past few years I have lived in the mommy fog. Changing, feeding, bathing, rocking, nursing, cleaning, driving, cooking. Many days all a blur and spent on auto-pilot, just doing what I had to in order to make it to the end of the day. I found my own ways to ‘escape the madness’ for a few blessed moments via my hidden sugar stash, afternoon movie time, mandatory naps for all (which can no longer happen without dire late-night consequences), time on facebook or editing photos. Normal stuff. And while I don’t think any of those ‘escapes’ are bad in and of themselves, I did start to notice an increasingly ugly attitude in my heart toward my kids was something more like, “Can we just skip past this hard part where you need so much of my attention and energy and get to the easy part when I won’t have to physically do so much for you so I can do the other things I want to do?” Just honest.

http://solacearts.com

And then I bumped into a few reality checks. Time is short. The future is uncertain. Today is what I have.

I feel the weight of the gift of this moment. This home. These children. And each day I have the choice to escape to my own world or press in to theirs…to do the same tasks I was already doing, only with a new perspective, a new joy, and in the process, discover a lot of things I was missing in the fog. I have discovered a clarity and a deep sense of purpose as I have become the homemaker I never wanted to be, or at least, never set out to be. And truthfully, as I have invested more of myself in the mundane tasks of mothering, seeing them less as necessary tasks and more as a willing investment in the health and wholeness of my family, I have noticed that each of my children, my husband, and even myself have a sharpened sense of direction moving forward, deep inner peace, and a lightness to our days. Lots of days are still hard…but not nearly as hard as when I had no idea why in the world I was put here at this place, with these responisbilities. Somehow, understanding that tilling the soil, planting the seeds, and watering the ground makes it possible for God to bless and grow something truly beautiful in your field, it makes the hard work worthwhile.

This Girl I Know

I have to tell you about this really terrific girl I know. She’s a dear, sweet friend, and we’ve formed a bit of an unexpected friendship while we travel through two very different seasons of our lives…me with my four kids in ‘momland’ and her, living with a great big longing in her heart to be a mama but with no children yet. She loves children, and even though it has not been easy, she has not let her infertility journey rob her of the joy that other people’s children bring to her. Instead of pulling away, she has even pressed further into our sweet friendship as the months have passed and she remains waiting, which has humbled and blessed me in unspeakable ways. Basically, I just want to say in a really public way that Sarah rocks. And not just in the “Sarah is cool” sort of way (but yes, she is very cool)…she rocks my world with her courage, joy, servant-heart, and surrender to God’s plan for her life even though the plan has thus far not seemed to align with her deep longing for a child.

The reason I bring all of this up is that Sarah has also started a new blog and I wanted to share it with ya’ll. She shares about her creative projects, favorite recipes, and her infertility journey. I’m encouraged by her and inspired by her strength and would love for you to check it out if you feel so inclined. Presenting: The Little Dove.

©Solace Arts 2011

Resurfacing

Hello. It’s been a while. I had a few days of introverted quietness last week, followed by a few truly horrible days of illness related to nursing a baby (isolated to mama, right over Mother’s Day). I’ll spare you the details unless you really want them. So no blogging for a long stretch. It’s good to be reminded that I must always hold my plans loosely because things often (or almost always) go differently than I think they will. But I’m back. I think. And I hope to be illness-free for a long time.

train_man3

For your amusement, I’ll share these old photos I found on my phone from sometime during the rainy season when all we had to do for fun was stay inside and find dorky ways to busy ourselves. It was probably early November last year, just before A got her glasses (notice the crazy eyes in the last photo?) Yes, we’re totally a walking advertisement for the Dark Knight movie my children have never seen.

train_man1

This all started when J made the first face and laid out his own clothes to make the body of the “train track man”. Not sure how that bit of creativity escalated into this. I think we’re just trying to do our part to contribute  to the stereotype that homeschoolers are weird. We are and we love it! I hope you laugh out loud, because I did! What a bunch of sillies.

train_man2

 

Journey

The words come slow, but I don’t really mind. A lot of things are slow these days, in a certain manner of speaking. Simple. Gritty. Rubbing a pearl right out of the sand, I like to think. An ocean of noise on the outside, but in my little oyster home, a solace. A sanctuary.

I used to think I knew so much. And then I broke into pieces years ago. Humbled by the knocks of life that taught me that I am not invincible. Experiences leading to the choice to feel or to medicate the pain, both with difficult consequences. The road to accept and surrender to what God has given (or has allowed) even though it hurt, or the road to reject those things in favor of denial, self-protection, and start on a quest to find meaning in life apart from God. Not an easy choice when you just want the bleeding to stop. When you know that to surrender means also to suffer…in a way. Suffer through a season to gain a reward that may not be tangible in this life, to grow in character in uncomfortable ways, and emerge on the other side with an entirely different perspective about life.

I chose to feel. To press in. To pray and cry out to God for healing. For mercy. For a future and a hope just like He promised. I chose it over and over again every day for years. Many days with knocking knees and tears down my cheeks, afraid that the light at the end of the tunnel would never come. But still I journeyed. On my face, seeking the Lord for the fullness of His heart. For the calling He has for me. Searching for purpose. Longing for connection. Looking for beauty.

And this is where I am. With light shining all around. Laughter ringing in my ears and in my heart. All the time. Hope near to the tattered soul. A recipient of great mercy, great healing, and great blessing. Looking ahead to the mountains, knowing I will be able to climb each one with His help, even if days ahead are filled again with pain somehow. He has my full confidence.

And I just have to tell you that if you’re there, in the dark place….the hard place…there is hope and healing and wholeness to be found in Jesus. There are no shortcuts on the journey. Not that I know of, anyway. For me, it has been long, slow, and difficult process of yielding. Repeatedly. When I wanted to do anything else but yield. Wanted to run. Wanted to escape. Wanted it to be easier. But I’m discovering that the things that come easy rarely mean as much to us as the ones that come at a high price. I have learned that I cannot see what He sees, but I can see Him. I have learned that burdens are not to be carried alone. And the greatest gifts in the world, the ones that He gives, come dressed in the most unexpected ways.

 

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Flowers and a May Day Message for You

http://solacearts.com

You are lovely just the way you are. You don’t have to dress up or down. You don’t have to fake a smile when your heart is a mess. You don’t have to be strong, or act smart, or put on beauty with outer things. Who you are, the whole you, the imperfect you. The quirky, silly, fun-loving you. The anxious, wounded, fearful you. All of it is beautiful, valuable, and worthy of love. So as love knocks on your heart today, whispering words that you ache to hear, fling the door open wide and welcome Him in. You are precious to Him. Yes. You. Are. And if you are feeling low, or stressed, or tired, or hurt….open up your hands and let Him take your burden and give you His peace and joy.

And if you need someone with skin on to talk to, I am here. Happy May Day.

http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com

Start a Blog

http://solacearts.com

Maybe you’ve thought about starting a blog before, but you came up with a nice list of excuses why you shouldn’t. Yeah, there are a lot of blogs out there. If you start one, you’ll just be adding to the noise, right? You’ll totally run out of things to blog about. Or people will snooze right through what you share. Or you won’t be able to compete with other blogs out there.

Of course, different blogs exist for different reasons. Some are marketing engines. Some are public personal journals. Some are helpful guides in an area of expertise. Some are alternative sources of income. And if you want to start a blog, it is helpful to know what your goals are and what steps you can take toward that end. But I’m willing to bet that there are probably a few people out there who have thought about starting a blog and haven’t jumped in for silly reasons.

I have to say, there are a few people who I can think of that I know have wisdom and insight, funny life experiences, great creative ideas, knowledge in niche areas and no blog on which to share any of the above with the rest of us. Tragic, don’t you think? You absolutely never know who might stumble across your blog at just the right moment to read something that totally helps them, encourages them, inspires them. You can be a blessing to people you have never met! I’ve received a few really special notes lately about this new young blog, and each one encourages me to keep moving forward (thanks for your support, friends!). But if you don’t start sharing, none of those things can happen.

If you’ve had a passing thought to start a blog, I just want to say (from my humble vantage point) I’m totally interested in reading what you have to write. There is no one else like you, and no one else has your unique perspective, and what you have to add to the blogosphere is totally valuable, just like you are. My favorite blogs are the honest, unpolished ones that have real people telling their real stories.

And friends, if you need me to call you out by name and give you a nudge (or a hard time), I can totally do that. And if you have a blog already that I don’t know about, now would be a good time to fess up and send me the URL. That is all.

P.S. If you do want to start a blog and don’t know where to start, I’m glad to help point you in the right direction. Just send me a note! 🙂