The Heavy Barn Door - My Messy Beautiful

****This essay and I are BLESSED to be a part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project at Momastery.com!   To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

  

 

Some people, when they see an old barn, think it is an eyesore.  The old siding is warped, the paint is chipping away, the roof looks saggy and is very sun damaged.  

Some people, when they see an old barn, think it is beautiful.  The old siding has a rich rustic feel, the paint flaking off is the desired look, the imperfect and wavy roof lines add interest and texture and the faded color is appealing.

Which person are you? Do you see the mess or the beautiful. I see both.

I adore barns.  I have never been a farmer, nor am I saying I want to be one!  Never.  EVER.  Oh my no!  But, I have always been drawn to old barns.  I plead with my husband to pull the car over on road trips just so I can take pictures of them...usually unsuccessfully because we have a destination and ETA folks!   I am “that person”  who wants to run up to the random farmhouse door and ask if I can RIP barn boards off of THEIR barns and take them home.  Seriously?  Oh, for the LOVE!  I am sure I would need to be bailed out after the farmer called the police on me.  I am a bit of a freak about barns.  They are gorgeous and I adore them.  I feel like they are ONLY beautiful BECAUSE they are messy.  And oh, how beautiful they are!! 

 

SO the question I have been asking myself lately is this...
Why can’t I see myself as an old barn?

When looking at a barn I see all the imperfections as beautiful.  But when I look at myself I see my imperfections as messy... and bad... and shameful... and unappealing... and unworthy of love and belonging.  I have struggled with this my whole life.  Don’t get me wrong. I love WHO I am.  I love WHAT I am.  I love WHERE I am.  I just don’t love what I LOOK like.  

Years of dieting, over-eating, going through drive-thrus and ordering for 2 (like the gal at McDonalds believed me?  Really?!), taking pills to suppress my appetite, comforting myself with food, hating the gym because I did not... in NO WAY... at all... look like the other women in their workout gear.  All of this just fed my dislike of my body... literally and figuratively. 


Soooo what’s a gal to do?

Well, recently I decided to start down the long road of changing this mindset.  It is not easy and, frankly, I would rather poke my eye out with a fork, watch episodes of Dora The Explorer, help my son with 7th grade math homework, or read the LONGEST bedtime story to my 9 year old before I try this hair-brained idea!!  I hate all these things...and I hate the hard work of trying to love myself truly.  But.... start I did.

Where to start though?  Do I start with looking at my skin folds (from large weight loss that I thought would make me love myself more...but didn’t.) in the mirror and chanting “I love my skin folds” like self help books tell me to do?  Ugh.  Do I gaze at my double (and sometimes depending on the angle, TRIPLE) chin and think “That chin is amazing!”?  Sheesh!  Like that is EVER going to help!

Since I can’t seem to look at my body and see the beauty that I see with an old barn I thought maybe I was looking at it from the wrong angle.  I decided to focus on the inside of the “barn”.  


When the farmer enters the barn, early in the morning, he puts his weathered, callused hand on the wooden handle he made himself, and pushes the hefty sliding barn door open easily.  The oversized door, that was made large to allow for livestock and big farm equipment to get it, glides smoothly on the track that it is housed on.

Once the farmer is on the inside he is hit by the morning light streaming through the cracks in the siding and can look around and see the structure of the building.  If he has one of those century old barns... that is falling down that I think are beautiful... he can see the trusses, beams and rafters that serve as the support system. 

 

 

 

 

 

These old trusses are usually created by piecing together, by hand, hand-hewn timbers that were locked together with hand-carved pegs while paying careful attention to detail and design for strength and longevity.

These old beams were hand carved with an ax out of trees from the farmer’s land and great consideration was given to the precise placement to help hold the structure up forever.

These rafters are connected to each other with thoughtfulness to what storms may lie ahead for this barn.

Without these things that old barn would fall.
Without these things that old barn would not last over a century.
Without these things that old barn would.......not exist.
And people... on the outside acting ALL CRAZY making their husband’s stop the car so they could try and get some good pictures... wouldn’t be able to see it.  
Because it wouldn’t be there.  

 

This is me folks...
I am the barn.

 

I need to place my painted stained, freckled hand on the handle and slide open the sliding door and look at what is on the inside.  I need to view what my heart & soul look like.  I need to be brave enough to look at the structure and support system of my body and learn to love it... just like I love an old barn.  I need to show myself the same grace I bestow on the falling down building in the middle of the gorgeous Midwestern field.

When I do this I am hit with the Light that streams in and is life-giving and I can see my own inner structure & support system.  I can see exactly what went into the building of myself.  I can close my eyes and see the images that tell the story of who I am.  I can calm my breathing and hear the voices of those who spoke into my life along the way.  

My trusses are crafted by the hand of God.  He made me with care and knowledge of who He wanted me to become.  They span from one side of my soul to the other with heavenly-hewn bones that are joined with my brain and heart in a way I will never understand but always marvel at.  The planks cross over each other to make the structure stronger... like the events and stories in my life that have reinforced who I am.

My beams are the people in my life that came alongside me and provided support, guidance and strength.  They are my parents, siblings, husband, friends, children, and more.  Each was placed in my story in the precise moment they needed to be for me to become the woman I am today.

My rafters are the beautiful “little things” that aren’t truly little at all.
They are the small moments like...
My childrens’ freckled noses.
My husband’s generous spirit.
My Gram’s double chin.  (I loved her and thought her to be beautiful...even with the chin!)
My studio, in the morning, with sunlight streaming in much like the farmer sees in his barn.
My life group of amazing high school students whom I LOVE and the co-leaders I am grateful for.
My warm bed.
My Mom’s kindness.
My Dad’s goofy jokes.
My God.

These things unite delightfully to frame me.  To shape me.  To become me. 

My old trusses are divinely created in an incomprehensible way that makes my body stand. 
My old beams are the community of people that sustain my heart.
My old rafters are the normally unnoticed soulful moments that are created by the Holy Spirit who dwells in me and prepares me for the storms ahead.

Without these things I would fall down.
Without these things I will not truly live a peaceful life for even a half of a century.
Without these things I do not significantly exist.
And people...on the outside wanting to see the real me...will not be able to see it.
Because I won’t truly be there.

But... I must admit my own barn door seems too big and impossible to open most days.  I don’t feel strong enough to push the massive weight of the door that is large enough to let the messy junk of my life in and be housed... or hid.  But thankfully, my door has a handcrafted handle where the Creator carved out 4 little holes that fit my fingers perfectly.  It was like I set my fingers on a piece of oak and someone chiseled the wood away around them till they laid down in the custom crevices perfectly.  All I need to do is be brave enough to insert my short, chubby, freckled Irish fingers into those holes and gently draw back the door.  When I use that handle it isn’t heavy anymore.  I don’t even need to be feeling my strongest.  The door just rolls open.  

You see... Seeing the beauty on the inside of myself COULD BE JUST LIKE seeing the beauty of the old barn.  

 

But....
I just struggle with choosing to open the door. 

 

 

May you see that old barn and recognize its beauty.
May you be willing to look at yourself with that same lens.
May you understand and BELIEVE you are worthy of love and belonging...from yourself.
May you take a peek inside of yourself to see the exquisite structure that makes up YOU.
May you glide open your door to see the messy & the beautiful....
The soul-centered beautiful mess that you are.

 

 

The photos above were taken by my own crazy talented Mom... and the incredible artistry of a generous friend, Julie Fix.  You can find out more about Julie here: www.jfixfotoworx.com.  

 
April 11, 2014

Out On A Limb

Many people say "I want to be like her when I grow up" when talking about older women, grandmas or mothers.  For me, I  say "I wish I could have been like my daughter when I was younger".  

 

I have a daughter.  Many people say that she is a lot like me.  I have to disagree. She may be a bit like my 46 year old self, but she doesn't resemble my 18 year old self hardly at all.  And I couldn't be prouder.  Taylor Evadeane is a much better young woman than I ever was!

 

When I was a teenager I tried to morph myself into whatever the "popular" crowd was looking for.  On the outside I looked like I was having fun making the choices I was, but on the inside it felt wrong for me.  I said and did things that would be seen as socially acceptable even though it conflicted with my heart.  I was drinking and having lots of "fun" for most of my high school years...and always regretting it the next day.

Taylor spent her high school years not changing for people.  She wasn't perfect, by any means, but she made choices that came from her heart and not cultural tuggings.  I am pretty sure it was not easy to make the decision to not drink during high school.  There were many Friday and Saturday nights she sat at home when I know she was missing doing stuff with friends.  I am sure that it was difficult to hear about all the fun that was had over the weekend on Mondays in the cafeteria.  


When I was young I was a bad student.  I didn't do very well in school.  I struggled with tests, papers and more.  I truly felt I was not smart.  I didn't believe I could do better.  I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't able to do well in school....and then lived my life in a way that wouldn't allow for any other option.  I stopped trying.  At all.

Taylor has always worked incredibly hard at her school work.  It seemed like she took twice the time to study for a test or read a book than other kids her age and still didn't do as well.  Her dad and I knew something was not quite right.  We had her tested back in 3rd grade but nothing came of it.  They said she was fine, "normal" and that she just needed to learn how to study.  Even though I felt they were wrong I had other kids and was trying to keep my own head above the mommy waters so fighting for her got pushed to the back burner.  Taylor, however, started to fight for herself.  She asked us to have her tested again, in middle school.  And when those tests came back much the same she asked for others.  She knew that she had the ability to do well but just needed to know what was going on with her so she could learn HOW to do better.  We had her tested by an outside source and wouldn't ya know it, she was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder.  She became her own best advocate.  She learned what environments were best for learning, study skills that would help her navigate through the disorder and educated every teacher she had from that point on what her situation was and how they could help her.  She believes she is smart and capable of much....and lives her life in a way that doesn't allow for any other option.  She never stopped trying.  Ever. 

 

When I was a college student I was....AGAIN...partying a ton.  I spent more time on drinking that I did on studying.  I chose a big school where I could fade into the crowd.  I was looking for a fun time at college where I could enjoy myself, meet new people and maybe think about a degree.  I also was very interested in finding a boy that liked me.  It consumed me.  I was looking for love, affirmation and belonging.  I tried finding it in guys.

Taylor has been in college for almost 1 year.  She chose a very small, private college where she could stand out.  She was looking for a enriching time at college where she could get a good education, grow in her faith and develop a community of people who love and encourage each other.  She is not focused on boys.  Oh, I am sure that if a super sweet guy comes along she won't mind!  But she is not looking, searching and yearning for a boyfriend.  She is consumed by fostering great friendships with guys.  She is looking to learn to love herself more, affirm herself more and know who she truly belongs to.  She is finding that in her heart...and in God.  

 

You see... Taylor has a faith that is deeply rooted in her heart.  HER heart.  Not mine or her dad's.  She makes choices that are VERY different than the ones that her dad and I made at her age.  She is wise beyond her years.  Oh, she can be a sassy gal too... no worries, she is normal where that is concerned.  But she has a moral and spiritual compass that I had but was unwilling to live by at her age.  

 

We have tried to teach our kids to be their own person.  Sometimes the person they choose to be isn't socially or culturally acceptable.  But it is to us.  Because no matter what their choices are, they are our children and they are loved unconditionally.  We are not trying to create mini-MEs.  We are letting go (as hard as it is!) and letting their hearts guide them. Taylor is listening very well to her heart.  

 

Taylor is beautiful.  INSIDE and out.  She is funny.  She is compassionate.  She is smart.  She is faithful.  

I am sure that she has felt like, at times, she is out on a limb alone.  But she has done it with grace & balance and with eyes focused on what is most important to her....and is a wonderful woman for it.  She knew she wasn't alone.  Not for a minute.

 

 

Taylor is not her mother...she is better.
I sure wish I was like my daughter when I was 18....
and somedays at 46 as well.  

 

May you know who you want to be at an early age...or any age.
May you be willing to fight for yourself and go against the tide if needed.
May you listen to your heart and not the world.
May you be who you are meant to be.

 

 

Photos are taken by Taylor's fellow Taylor University student and treasured friend....the amazing and talented Natalie Halleen!  Thanks for sharing Natalie. :)

 

 

 

 

April 01, 2014

You Have To Be Brave To Dream

I like to know the plan.
I like to know what is coming up.
I like to know how to do the task at hand.

I like to know.

 

So, clearly I am afraid of NOT knowing…...
the plan.
what is coming.
how to do something.

Well, if you remember this is my year to be grateful, kind and BRAVE.  And I had been doing some brave things…co-hosting a small women's conference in Madison, trying to get a hair stylist to go completely different with my "do" (epic fail), try garlic in my home made guacamole, and wear gold jewelry.  I know, I know…. I am SO gutsy. ;-)  This was not exactly what I had in mind when I decided on my New Year's focus.  I was dreaming bigger.  

And I almost let those dreams be squashed by fear.  Almost.

 

You see, there is this cool shop in Rockford, IL called Urban Farmgirl.  I have never actually been to the shop but have heard about it, stalked it on Facebook and dreamt of having my signs sold in it one day.  One day, last fall, I saw an annoucement on their FB page.  The owner of the shop was hosting a juried show event on historic museum/village grounds in May and was going to be accepting applications after the new year.  OH. MY. GOSH.  My first instinct was "I SO want to be in this show!!!".  I was excited, inspired and anxious to apply.

 

Anyone who knows me will understand my joy and excitement when they look at these pics of a bit of the grounds where the show will be at!

 

 

 

 

 

Then time.... and that terrible voice in my head called doubt.... got in the way.  

When the application came out and I read it somehow I focused on the things that made me think I couldn't do it.  I don't have a 10'x10' white tent with sides.  I don't have weights to hold down the tent/sides.  It is outdoors, what if it rains and ruins my signs?  I don't sell vintage items.  My art is "made to order" not cash and carry!  I have never done this before.  I don't have a credit-card-reader-thing for my phone…or even know what they are called!  

I decided I couldn't do it.  I chickened out!!  Oh, for the LOVE!

I was scared.  I let fear take over my decision making process.  

 

Then a dear friend texted me one day a few weeks ago…. as she was leaving Urban Farmgirl in Rockford.  She said the owner was WONDERING IF I WAS GOING TO APPLY!  Holy moly folks!

Then same day a blogger/photographer/renovation-restoration junkie posted that she would be selling Tshirts to help fund adoptions for 2 families.  What did the Tshirt she had designed and was selling say you ask?  "DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY DREAM".   What??!!

Sometimes I truly think God takes a big ole' cement brick, winds up and swings it right at my thick skull to get me to pay attention to Him.  Seriously!  This was ONE BIG BRICK. 

 

 

 

I was letting my fear of NOT KNOWING rule my desire to be inspired, grow and create.  I am fueled by this God-given gift of creativity.  I need to be using this gift.
I need to face the fear.
I need to be brave.

I need to apply…………….. So I did. :)

And was chosen.

 

Me.

Chosen.

Dream. Come. True.

 

 

 

I am humbled, scared, inspired and excited.  

I am confident I will "know the plan" in time for the event. 

And....I am brave.

 

Now I have to get to work!

 

May you not have to know things all the time.
May you not let fear squash your dreams.
May you allow for others to believe in you even when you don't yourself.
May you face fear and find creativity.
May you be brave. 
March 17, 2014

Patinas & Promises

Valentine's Day.  A special day for love.  Tomorrow we will all give gifts, flowers, chocolates, cards and more to people to show them we love them.  Such a special day……..

 

PHOOEY!

Now hang in here with me for a few minutes…before you call me the Scrooge of the LUUUUUHHHHVE day!  

I do think it is important to spend at least 37 minutes in a Walgreens aisle searching for just the right greeting card.
I do think it is important to think about what kind of flower makes someone smile and buy it for them.
I do think it is important to choose the right kind of chocolate (Is there a wrong kind???!!!  Really?) and bring it to a loved one.
I do think it is important to dream up just the right gift for a special person and enjoy the giving.

These things are VERY important.

But do they have to happen on one designated day?  Not in my book.  
Love should be shown in little ways EVERY day.  

 

I have been painting a sign this past week on reclaimed barn wood.  It is one that has been ordered by a bride.  She and her fiancé plan on getting married in front of a huge stone fireplace.  And perched on its mantel she wants a sign that says it all.  What an honor for me...

 

As I have worked on this sign I have been thinking a lot about marriage…and love.

There are good sides and bad sides of a marriage.
There are easy times and difficult times in a marriage.
There are effortless joys and tough struggles in a marriage.
There is never one without the other.  NEVER.  

 

I used to think that it should be easy.  It should be fun.  It should be effortless. What was I thinking?!?  

When Craig and I have THE most trying times in our lives our commitment to each other and God is what gets us through.  When we fight and are rude to each other it hurts.  But the covenant we hold allows us to move past with forgiveness and healing always happens.  When our marriage has felt a bit broken, we stand in faith and in the promises we made, and it becomes more beautiful than before.  Beauty comes from the broken.

 

Much like the sign.

 

These 2 planks came from an old barn in Wisconsin.  It was at least 120 years old and was falling down.  It was broken.  When I think about these planks of wood and what they have been through I am deeply moved.  {I know, I know...I am strange that I get choked up thinking of a barn. Whatever. Deal with it!}  

Wisconsin winters are brutal.  This barn had endured hot sun, pouring rain, thunderstorms, tornado-like winds, sleet, hail, snow, and freezing temperatures for over a century.  The wood shows the wear and tear.  It is discolored and raw. The knots have been blown right out of it.  It is in rough shape.

 

 

To me THIS is beautiful.  This is the back side of a sign.  The warm rich color that has been changed throughout the years by the sun and elements is amazing. Each knot seems to speak to me of a time that it endured some high winds and only allowed for one small portion of the entire plank to fall out to let the wind have a path.  The scraps and gashes that cover these boards are proof of its strength of character and willingness to get beaten up a bit and not look "pretty" anymore to protect what is inside of the barn.  

 

It is the same in our marriage. We have weathered some rough times in our {almost} 25 years together….

Some storms were brought on by others, events and situations.  Some of them were self-induced ones.  Each of those hard times show up like a knot in our plank of our marriage now.  

We have seen sunny days and freezing cold days.  We can be very loving and kind to each other and then be selfish, disrespectful and downright mean as well. Those different kind of days show up like the beautiful contrast of color in the patina on the plank of our marriage now. 

We have always been 2 very different people in many ways.  We dream differently and sometimes trying to live out those dreams together is hard.  It is like our passions scrape up against each other as they both are trying to make room for themselves.  But we have tried like crazy {and not always successfully} to allow the scraping to happen till we find the right groove that honors both of our hearts' desires.  Those times show up like the scratches and dents in the plank of our marriage now.


Craig and I….together….work on these signs.  He spends hours in the garage planing just one side these planks.  Over and over he feeds the board through the planer, patiently, until it has been brought back to its original state.  Smooth, rich, gorgeous wood.  Then I spend time picking just the right planks to pair up, stain them by hand, and then hand paint the lettering's message.  

We make a good team.

In sign-making…and marriage.  

 

Together we can weather the storms of life and come out on the other side with something incredibly beautiful….

because LOVE is ALL you need.  

 

 

So because I feel that we should show others our love and appreciation on regular days…normal days…non-Valentine's Day days…  I want to take this moment to say….

I am grateful for the exquisite patina & protection of the promises that have come of our years loving each other.
I love you Craig…..honest and true. 

 

 

May all your relationships have the qualities of barn wood planks.
May you welcome the storms.
May you feel the protection of promises made.
May you find all the love you ever need. 

 

 

 

 

February 13, 2014

Yoked

It happens all the time.  Someone walks into the studio, for the first time....looks around and says, "What the heck is that??!!". 

 

 

They are referring to the old double ox yoke I have hanging on a wall of windows right below the highest point of the room's vaulted ceiling.  I usually say "That is an ox yoke.", to which I normally get the reply "Why, IN THE WORLD, do you have an ox yoke hanging in your house?!".  That is an easy answer in my head because it has meant something to me for a long time.  But explaining it is hard. It means getting personal.  It means getting "spiritual".  It means people might not agree.  It means being courageous enough to be vulnerable.  It means trusting that people who don't agree will hopefully as kind to me as I am to them. So.... since that is one of my new things for 2014 to work on.... BE KIND & BRAVE..... here goes!

 

My ox yoke.....

It is a solid, heavy, scratched, chipped, worn yoke.  It's 2 U-shaped bows are a tad warped and clearly have endured some wear and tear over the years.  It has a large rusty metal circle hanging from the center.  I love this yoke.  I had wanted one for years and it has a special significance for me.  

 

A ox yoke, primitively, is a large beam used to help connect 2 oxen together to help perform a farming task.  

Once strapped together they are a team.
Once harnessed as a pair they are partners.
One animal can not be a slacker.
The other animal can not do all the work.

There may be times when one is pulling harder and the other is just trying to keep up.  

There may be a day when one wants to stop stubbornly and the other gently pulls till he starts again.

The large metal ring connects the yoke to the load they are to carry or equipment they are to pull.

The rusty circle moves and swivels to allow for movement and flexibility of task. 

The bows are U-shaped to gently go around the oxen's neck with room to breathe.

The oxbows are adjustable so to fit a smaller ox on one side and a larger ox on the other if needed. 

 

For ME........ the ox yoke represents many things.  

First, it is a picture of what a marriage or partnership should be ideally.  

2 people.  Working together.  Pulling their own weight but not alone. Accomplishing much more together than apart. Taking the lead sometimes and others times being led. Being flexible with a change in terrain or the path ahead. Tied to a common goal.  Committed by the bond but adaptable if growth happens.  

There are many times when my husband has had to gently pull our yoke as I stand stubbornly not wanting to move.  

There are many times when I have had to quietly wait when he wants to dig his heels in and not work toward a goal.

There are many (did I say MANY?) times when both of us go along, stride for stride, and...I imagine... would have been the farmer's prize team of oxen.

I am grateful to be yoked together in this life with him.  Sometimes I am sure we both want to wiggle our way out of the hold of the bows but we are blessed that they are adjustable and we are open to growth and change for each other.

 

Secondly, it is a model of what a friendship should look like.

A team.  A partnership.  Bound by some commonality but individual in strengths.  It has to be mutual and not one-sided.  The communication has to be good, strong and understanding.  There needs to be some grace shown when one wants to slack.  But there also needs to be some forgiveness when one doesn't pull their weight.  It should be resilient and willing to accept growth.  It should be comfortable but binding.  

A long lasting relationship is one where the yoked individuals love each other, support each other, are patient with each other and keep their eyes on the goal ahead..... true friendship.

 

Lastly, it is a great image, for ME, of me and God. 

I am reliant on Him to help guide me as a more mature oxen would teach the younger one when yoked together.
I am glad that He "shoulders" the burden of the task at hand for me.
I am thankful that He allows me to feel the weight of it as well.
I am sure of the path we are on.
I am confident that I don't really know where that path is actually going.
I am willing to grow into the size ox bow that is set out for me.
I am grateful for the patience when I stop dead in my tracks and refuse to move forward.

 

For ME...... the ox yoke is special.  It means I am not alone.

Clearly, there are many common ties to the original use of a yoke to my thoughts on what it signifies in my life.  But there is one thing that is not the same.

 

The ox on a farm don't have a choice to put this yoke on.  It is put on them and they are put to work.

I choose to wear the yoke with Craig.
I choose to wear the yoke with God.
I put it on myself...by choice.
An ox yoke is not for everyone..... in decorating or in life choices.  And that is ok.  

This is just for ME.  Maybe not for you.  And that is ok.  

 

May you hang something in your home that is very special to you.
May you look at it and be reminded of its significance.
May you be sure of it and let it guide you. 
And may you be accepting of other people's decor (and life) choices.
May you be kind and brave to share the reasons behind yours.

 

 

January 23, 2014

Early Onset Comparisonitis

One of my favorite bloggers wrote "Comparison is the thief of joy." in 2013. Brilliant!!  I knew exactly what she meant.  I think that all generations have suffered from the disease of Comparisonitis.  It is an ugly sickness.  It is one that is contagious and spreads easily.  It can creep up on you slowly or hit you like a mack truck.

You all know what I am talking about....... you all have had it..... and seen it in others.  

From what I remember, I came down with Comparisonitis, for the first time, in 6th grade. Every girl in my grade had a thin, gold stretchy belt with a shiny buckle closure and a silky off-white shirt that they wore together.  Every stinkin' girl. Everyone but me.  Everyone.

 

{Well...in all truth... EVERYONE was probably more likely about only 22% of my grade!  Sheesh.}

 

You see.... I had compared what others had to what I had.  I saw that many girls had the super cool silky shirt and amazing sparkly gold belt.  I didn't.  I felt terrible.  Every time I saw a girl in the hallway wearing it was like I was being exposed to this nasty virus....over and over.  Eventually I succumbed and the disease hit.  I had Comparisonitis.  It wasn't the last time in my life I would contract it... it happened many times and still does.

For those who don't remember I searched and found THE BELT!  It can now be found on Etsy... for sale as a VINTAGE item!  Oh for the LOVE!!  But isn't it beautiful.............? ;)

Anyway....

As a mom, I had hoped that my kids would be spared from this disease for as long as they could.  I knew that about by their middle school years they would catch it and I would help them deal with it as best as I could.  But I never thought I would be wiping the tears of pain caused by this wretched illness at age 9.

Our youngest, Noah, has a certain zest for life and sensitive heart.  He can be funny.  He can be naughty.  He can be brave.  He can be a baby.  He is a normal kiddo who loves in a big way and feels in an even bigger way. 

A week ago Noah turned 9.  He was SO excited to be the "Celebrity of the Week" in his 3rd grade classroom.  On each day of the week the birthday kid gets to do something special.  One day is the "Sharing Day".  They get to bring something special in to show the class.  He had been thinking about what he would bring for that day for MONTHS.  He was eager for Christmas & his birthday to see what he got so it might help him decide.  

But it wasn't the holiday that came through for him.... it was an unexpected "gift". Noah became the 3rd owner of a 2007 iPod Nano!!!  WOAH!  Our college age daughter had passed it down to our now 7th grade son several years ago who now was passing it to Noah.  It was a hand-me-down.  But this was big stuff for him!  He didn't think a hand-me-down was bad.  He was overjoyed!  He felt so important and grown up.  He could be seen walking around the house with his Skylanders headphones on his little red head and holding the Nano proudly.... singing and dancing in his own little world.  It was JOY lived right out loud.  

 

You can check out this 10 second video that shows Noah's happiness that he felt from having a Nano...... dancing to a tune that only he can hear. :)   I loved seeing him be so happy with music in his ear and bursting with pride of ownership. 

So it was a no brainer for him when it finally came down to decision time for Sharing Day!  He was bringing his NEW NANO!!!!!  Oh my gosh, his excitement was making his cup over flow with joy.  Of he went to school....

Cut to end of the day.  He gets into my car and I can hardly wait to find out his "high and low" of the day (our daily conversation).  I say "Well what is your high and low pal?".  He said, sadly, "My low was my sharing.".  Oh my gosh....are you kidding?  What could have happened?  I asked "Why bud?".  He said, "Well, I shared the nano with everyone and...did you know, momma, that ALL the other kids in my class have iPod TOUCHES?". (cue tears....) 

Sweet 3rd graders had no idea that by telling Noah that they had iPod Touches it would be like contaminating him with a virus.  They weren't being mean.  They were just sharing. But..... it is hard for a little guy to continue to feel special about his 7 year old hand-me-down Nano when "all" the other kids have a touch screen iPod.  

 

{Now let's be clear folks.....  I know that that when he said "ALL" it was the exact same thing as when I said EVERYONE back in 6th grade.  Double sheesh.} 

 

I know this reality.  But I also know the heart ache and propensity to exaggerate when hit by this disease.  Noah had caught his first case of Comparisonitis.  It was early onset Comparisonitis.  He is WAY too young to have to deal with the side effects of this.  Way too young.

So what did I do?  Just held him and loved him.  I can't change it.  I have no real answers.  I already do the whole newer 2014 version of "Clean your plate, there are kids in Africa who are starving" thing.  My kids know that they have way more than 90some% of the rest of the world.  They hear it from me... all. the. time.   But in that moment, he didn't need to hear it.  He just needed to be loved, listened to and cared for.  It's like when they get the flu....there is not much that is going to stop the course of the sickness.  You can only make sure that they don't feel alone and you are loved.    

 

And he is not alone.  Right?

But, FOR THE LOVE, can't we start the research for finding the cure for this life changing, emotionally damaging and self-worth killing disease already!??!  Can we work together to stop the spread of this illness that has the potential to become an epidemic and change things...forever. Comparisonitis must be cured.

Please. 

 

May you stop comparing yourself to those who have more and realize there are many more who have less.
May you cuddle up and love the ones around you who come down with a nasty case of Comparisonitis.
May you know that what you have is more than enough.

 

 

 

 

January 14, 2014

It's a sign...

I am not superstitious.  I don't believe in "signs".  But sometimes......

What I do believe in is my instinct that is coming from a Holy place within my soul.  It notices things.  I pulls at me.  It nudges me.  I trust this sacred gut feeling. I have learned to listen to this beautiful, mysterious, trustworthy gift.   As the new year started I didn't have to bend an ear to hear the message I was getting loud and clear......

I sell, create and ship hundreds of signs every year.  I have 122 signs for sale in my Etsy shop today.  On any given day the load of signs that I take to the UPS store for packaging and shipping are of a good variety.  Not today.

Today's shipment is the first 2 signs to head out the doors of the studio.  And they are the same sign?!?  


2 different buyers.
2 different choices of colors.
2 different font styles.
1 strong message. 

 

 

So as I got these signs today I was hit square on with the not-so-gentle message. This year I should focus on these 3 things!  

Be kind.
Be grateful.
Be brave.

 

But as I have thought about they feel very familiar and, to be honest, I feel like I already try pretty hard to do all of these things.  Then.....that sucker-punch-in-the-gut hit me again!  No silly....look at them in a different way.  Find a fresh point of view.  Duh. 

We each look at things in a different way.  One buyer's heart leaned toward the Seaside Blue color with a playful font.  The other buyer's heart was drawn to the bold Navy blue with the simple font. Both are good, both are beautiful....  But the meaning might be not be similar.  Kindness, gratitude and bravery might have a different definition for one person than the other person.  But sometimes it is good to focus on a totally different view than our heart's pull us toward.  This "Be Kind, Be Grateful, Be Brave" sign can have fresh meaning.....

 

So, for 2014 my plan is to zoom in on new facets of each of these and re-align my intentions........ Here goes!

 

BE KIND

I really do try to be kind.  Kindness matters folks!   I consider the "story" of the grocery store bagger and let it affect how patient I am.   I consider the commitment and intention of a teacher and let it guide me in communication with them about one of my kid's issues.  I notice the efforts and sacrifice of time of volunteers and let it direct my actions when showing appreciation.   

But guess what?  I fall WAY short to do the same for people in my own home.  I could think more about the kind of day my husband has had before I ask him to cut pine planks in the garage (when it is below freezing!!!).  Really?  I could empathize more with what I am pretty-sure-but-he-won't-open-up-and-tell-me stuff my middle school son is experiencing daily and just hug him when he gets home. (Even if it is awkward for an almost 13 year old...I am going in for the hug!!)  

I could be kinder....to those I love the most. 

Couldn't we all?

 

BE GRATEFUL

Now, you all know how I feel about gratitude!  It was, and IS, a life saving intentional practice for me that I will never give up.  So to think of a fresh approach to this is a challenge.....   I find it easy now to be grateful for the things I love about my life.  I have been able to shift my focus to the little things in life.  But I have never been able to be grateful for things I mess up on....or things that I don't like about myself.....or my body.....or......who I am....who I have been created to be.  If I showed myself the same gratitude that I do for others it might change everything.  I have always been such a firm believer in being humble that I think I have made myself into a woman who doesn't feel comfortable being appreciative of herself.  I need to be grateful for me.  I should be grateful for my double chin.  I could allow myself to be grateful for my fold of skin on my belly.  I should be compelled to be grateful for my head full of gray hair.  I ought to be grateful for my scatter-brained tendencies.  I could experience being grateful for the worst part of my heart....and then slowly change it. 

I could be more grateful for the most unfavorable things about who I am.

Couldn't we all?

 

BE BRAVE

I am not the bravest person.  I am actually quite a chicken.  I don't like roller coasters.  I hate heights.  I have a fear of falling off of a huge cliff.  I am a wuss.  So trying to "be brave" in the traditional sense is not something I think is really ever going to happen.  Nope.  Not ever.  Never.

 

But....I also am scared of being up in front of people, speaking in public and being vulnerable.  I would much rather hear about someone else's story... someone else's pain.... someone else's issues.  But by doing this I am holding out on the possibility of connection.  I am keeping people at a distance that is safe.  I am missing out on potentially helping someone else to learn something I have had to learn. 

This past month I already took a step toward being braver.  I attended a retreat with oodles of some of my favorite people....high school students.  (off on a quick tangent.... Seriously folks, some of these young people from this next generation are brilliant, smart, and will change things in this world BIG time!)  While at this retreat I was going to have to get up in front of ALL of them.... to speak... and tell my story.  I imagined ALL those beautiful eyes all staring at me....OH FOR THE LOVE...the pressure!  I was scared to death leading into the weekend.  But once at this peaceful retreat center, and given lots of times of quiet I was able to silence my messed up bundle of nerves and listen to that Holy place within my soul.  I felt peaceful.  I felt assured.  I felt loved.  I did it.  For about 40 minutes I spoke, taught, loved...and felt love.  This is the kind of bravery I need more of.  I need to allow myself to push aside the other voice that is filled with fear and listen carefully to the one that is pointing me toward places that others can learn from the mistakes I have made.  I need to be vulnerable. 

I could be more brave....not the roller coaster kind of brave....but the fulfill-a-purpose kind of brave.

Couldn't we all?

 

May you find new ways to be kinder to those who you normally reserve the worst side of yourself.
May you be grateful for the things you hate most about yourself.
May you be brave to then go out and share those things with others....
so we all don't feel alone in our mess. 
January 09, 2014

Last one Standing.....strong

It's the age old school yard scene.  Kids out at recess, getting ready to play a game.  Kickball, soccer, basketball, football...or any other sport.  2 kids get picked (or nominate themselves) to be the captains of the teams.  Everyone else lines up waiting to be picked to be on a team.  Hoping.  Praying.  

The captains call out names for the soccer teams....5 on 5.....

James.
Ethan.
Jack.
Connor.
{the waiting crowd is getting smaller in size and bigger in hopes...with a touch of nervousness}

Joe.
Nick.
Owen.
Luke.
{down to 2 boys.  they look at each other both hoping their name is called next so they don't have to be the last one}

Mark.

{one left standing.  alone. holding in the sadness.  biting the lower lip that is trying so hard to quiver.  walking slowly over to the team with shoulders slumped. ashamed.}

 

 

Sound familiar?  It does to me (except the names were way more feminine!).  And this is, unfortunately, very familiar to my youngest child right now.  He would prefer to walk around at recess by himself or hang with the giggly girls than go through this one more time.  For the longest time we just thought he was a "lady's man" and flirt!  Nope.  We were wrong.  He chooses the girls because they choose him.  When he tries the team thing he gets picked last.  Every time.  Big crocodile tears fall on his freckled cheeks when he tells me about it.  My heart breaks. 

 

I wish that I could.....some how.....help him to understand that it isn't the worst thing in the world to be chosen last.  
I wish that I could.....some way.....prove to him that he will be picked first for something one of these days.
I wish that I could.....some how....help him to know that some of the most successful, happy, good & content people were picked last in the schoolyard.
I wish that I could.....some way.....get him to actually be ok with being picked last.

 

I want my child (and every child) to know that whether he is picked first or last he is IN THE GAME!  I want him to know that when he does get picked first...some day (for a play or a music solo or for a math competition)... that he should be as proud as when he got picked last.  I want him to be humble when he hears his name first.  I want him to stand proud when it is called last.  I want him to pump his fists in the air WHENEVER his name is called! 

I want him to know that I would choose him first....anytime.
I want him to know that God chose him first....already and always.

But until then he is just a boy who heart is sad.  Because he wants to belong. Because he wants to be wanted.  Because he wants to feel loved.

 

Not to far off from how all of us feel......right? 

 

May you celebrate, with a big old fist pump, no matter when you get chosen.
May you be glad that we all were created to be really good as something...not everything.
May you feel like you belong, are wanted and loved. 

 

 

 

 

October 23, 2013

Success is a 4 letter word

I was asked a question yesterday.  

"What are your goals for success?  What will it look like for you when you feel you are successful?"

 

I gave a quick answer but have given it alot of thought since.  The "day later" answer is close to my first answer....but much simpler.  

My answer yesterday was this in a nutshell...  

There are 2 different ways that I look at that.  First is that "success" is defined by my contentment.  If I am happy to be doing something I love and that it has a purpose and a mission, then I am successful.  If I can make art that means something to people and speaks to their heart than I am successful.   But there is a big part of me that is a driven gal with big dreams.  I would love to have a booth at a big home show one day.  I would love to have my art licensed.  I would love to have large bulk orders and be sold in boutiques and stores nationwide.  But I try to keep my focus on the first kind of success or the second kind won't feel good.

 

I was on Pinterest last night (don't judge) and typed in "success".  I found tons of quotes.  Al sampling for you:

The real key to success is enthusiasm.- Walter Chrysler
Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. -Unknown
Success is the best revenge. -Unknown
 

After pondering these I kept thinking of something.....or someone.  What I ended up with is this....

Success is a 4 letter word. 

 

A few weeks ago my community lost a woman who I never had the honor of meeting.  She passed away suddenly and WAY too young.  She was not much older than me.  I knew "of" her and one of her daughters was in my son's high school class.  I kept thinking yesterday about how she might define success if asked today in heaven.  I am pretty sure she wouldn't have said anything about bulk orders or nationwide sales.......or profit.....or homes, boats, trips....or things. Pretty darn sure. 

 

From what I understand there were well over 1000 people at her visitation.  Those were all lives who were touched by her or by those she loved.  Those were all lives that were affected by the warm, loving, funny, thoughtful, amazing woman I am told she was.  Those were lives who ached for her daughters who are, from what I understand, phenomenal young women.  Those were all lives who she loved and loved her. 


I think her answer today would be this...

 

Success......is L O V E.  A 4 letter word.  Love.  

She loved well.
She was loved well.

 

 

That is success.  

So.....I guess I am already successful.
And I am betting you are too. 

 

May you be successful in life.
May you know the true definition of it.
May you love and be loved. 
October 16, 2013

Dandelion Wishes 2.0

One year ago I wrote on this blog about things I wished for.  It was titled Dandelion Wishes.  Today I was working on editing the old blog posts within this new site and came across this post.  It made me think about what my list would be today.  Many wishes have changed, but several have remained the same.  I thought I would give a 2013 list of my dandelion wishes.....and share them with you.

Do you all know the folklore behind blowing a dandelion and making wishes?  I didn't....until last year when I researched it.  

It has been said that the seeds of a dandelion carry wishes and dreams to loved ones.  I can vaguely remember loving to find this weed like, humble plant, picking it, closing my eyes and wishing for something.  I am pretty sure that I didn't think it was carrying them to loved ones...but, for me, rather it was like a little hopeful prayer being blown heavenward.

 


 

I wish....that teenagers could see themselves as many of us do...as beautiful/handsome, smart people who have the ability to change our world. 

I wish...that other teens could look at people around them in high school, respect each other and acknowledge that someone different than them might be equally as cool as them.

I wish...that teachers felt appreciated from every single parent.  They ought to since they are spending more hours with our children, during the school year, than we parents are. 

I wish...South Carolina wasn't so stinkin' far away.....and the home of one of my closest friends.

I wish...that there could be a big family wedding at least once a year so we could be together to dance, catch up and celebrate. 

I wish...that my Gram was still alive so I could go sit on the floral couch next to her in her green chair, have some Panera take out Broccoli & Cheddar soup....and talk about what we wished for.

I wish...that kids were not cruel to each other.

I wish...that everyone had a sibling who makes them laugh as much as my sister does me. 

I wish...the Packer's O-line was better this year. 

I wish...that no kid would have that terrible feeling that comes with being picked last at recess...including my own. 

I wish...that there were more people like my favorite Piggly Wiggly check out lady....who smiles at everyone and exudes joy.

 

When I think of a dandelion I can't help but be amazed that this plant that most people think is ugly and without purpose is the one in which this folklore is part of.  Peoples' hopes and dreams are big, important things.  And, yet, here we are choosing, from a whole big prairie of beautiful flowers, this simple colorless weed to hang our hats on and depend on for wishes coming true.  

But when we look closely to this simple, humble useless plant we can see extreme beauty.  Well, at least I do.  The intricate lacy detail of the umbrella like petals are unbelievably exquisite.  The long thin stems that stretch out from the seeds are fragile looking but strong in nature.  

 


 

 

 

I wish...that the cancer cells in 2 dear friends would respond to chemotherapy and be eradicated from their bodies.

I wish...that I could lose 15 lbs in a day.

I wish...that there was a way to adequately express how much I love and admire my husband.

I wish...that I could simultaneously hold tight to my kids and let them go. 

I wish...that our government would learn to work together and be role models of cooperation, compromise and a good work ethic for our children.

I wish...that I could go to Africa on a mission trip and adopt 7 children.  Not kidding.  Seriously. (this one changed from 14 kids last year...I am older and smarter!)

I wish...that car accidents never would happen.

I wish...that there would never be one more young girl sold into slavery for sex.

I wish...that people understood that we ALL are a hot mess and have a story...and treat each other considering these things. 

I wish...that I could fix things.  Big things.

I wish...that I could find a swimsuit that I felt good in.

I wish...that Jen Hatmaker would come and simple sit in my studio with me and chat about the little and big things of life.  

I wish...that bathrooms cleaned themselves.

I wish...that people were more grateful for what they have...and do not have. 

I wish...that I would have chosen a refrigerator that didn't show every fingerprint.  

I wish...that I had enough time in a day to drive to Iowa and have lunch with 2 sweet aunts and still be back in time to be home for Noah and Luke. 

I wish...that 3 beautiful young women would not have lost their mother, unexpectedly and too young, this past week

I wish...that my mom and dad knew how incredibly proud and happy I was to be their daughter. 

I wish...that my children grow up to love themselves, others and God. (this one will never change.)

I wish...that the energy I get from a crisp, cool, colorful autumn day was felt every day. 

I wish...that women would stop comparing themselves to other women and rest in the knowledge that they, themselves are awesome....and enough.

I wish...that I had naturally red curly hair. 

I wish...that I knew more of the stories behind the reasons people purchase my art.

I wish...that my daughter gets to mother someone one day.

I wish...that my sons get to father someone one day.

 

Did you know that a dandelion can grow in rich or dry soil?  Did you know it can thrive at sea level or 10,500 feet?  Did you know that it can grow in an untouched field but also in a crack in a sidewalk in an urban city?  Did you know that it multiplies at amazing rates and is impossible to get rid of?  

Did you know that a dandelion adapts and transforms to live in the environment it lives in...and survives?  

Same can be true of our hopes and dreams. 

 

Thankfully there are fields of them out there...... 

 

 

I could spend days thinking of more wishes....enough for each dandelion in a enormous field.  

But I guess I will save some for October 2014. 

 

May you not pass by a dandelion without picking it up to blow and wish.
May you know how strong your own stem is instead of
thinking of yourself as fragile.
May you take the time to love those around you before
you wish you could and not be able to.
May all your wishes come true.
October 07, 2013