Just Stay Little Forever

Something happened last week that I am so not ready for.  In fact, I am not sure that I will ever be ready for it.  My oldest daughter, after having completed driver’s education, 45 logged hours of driving time, and a 7 day behind the wheel course, has officially gotten her real license.  She just has a piece of paper right now because the state requires her to appear before a judge in court to get the hard copy in the next few weeks, but that piece of paper means she can legally drive without an adult.  I’m not ready.  Is any parent ever ready to let their teen get behind the wheel alone and drive off? I don’t see how anyone could be.  The thought of her driving without her dad or me there is so scary.  We live in an extremely high traffic area which is a far cry from the small, zero traffic town where I first got behind the wheel alone all those years ago. I am certain my parents were nervous for that first time, but I feel like it is vastly different here. There are so many more opportunities for crashes in the crazy traffic we see around here.  I think I would feel much better about the situation if we lived down there instead of here.  Let’s be honest, though. That’s probably not really true.  I would likely be a nervous wreck no matter where we lived. Ugh! I’m not ready. I know I said this same thing when she got her permit, but this is a whole new ballgame.

Later this week will be the first time that she has to drive by herself.  She has SAT tutoring, and my husband and I are not able to take her that day.  Normally, we would just reschedule, but my husband has talked me into letting her drive herself there and back. He says it has to happen sooner or later. It is only like 2 miles away, but I am not sure I am going to be able to breath until she texts me that she is safely there and parked and safely back home and parked afterwards.  I made her drive there yesterday with me to practice and to practice parking in the parking lot.  Of course, she did fine, but that doesn’t mean that she will do fine on Thursday.  She still makes careless mistakes sometimes as an inexperienced driver that really make me nervous.  Plus, she is a blond and a true dingy sometimes. I can say that because I am her mother. If you know her, you know it is true. She will admit it herself.  I know that she had her own nerves every time she gets behind the wheel, and that does make her more cautious.  I guess that is a good thing, but I would like her to be a little more confident.  She says that she is ready, though, and that she will be fine driving to tutoring by herself.  It is just me that isn’t so sure.  The whole time she had her learner’s permit, she really had no interest in driving. We actually had to force her to drive most of the time just to get her practice and to be able to log her 45 hours of experience. Now that she has the real thing, though, she is making all these plans of where she is going to go and what she is going to do.  I am thankful that the law here is that she can only have one non-family member in the car with her at a time.  She can’t just load the car up with all her friends and go galivanting around town.  My husband and I were talking yesterday about needing to set our own ground rules for driving as well.  I can think of like 50 rules, but he, of course, thinks that is overkill.  

I know that this is a part of growing up and a normal part of life, but she is my baby. She may be almost as tall as me, but to me she is still that 4 lb, 8 oz peanut that we were scared we would break when we brought her home from the hospital. Now I am scared she will break while out driving, and that is a million times worse. I know this is a big step in her life, but I don’t like it.  Why can’t they just stay little and innocent forever? I don’t know how I am going to do this.  I get a pit in my stomach just thinking about it.  I know I have to let her go and just keep praying that she will be safe, but it is excruciating. Is there ever a stage in life when parenting isn’t hard? We have joked for years that we couldn’t wait until she could drive herself to practice and we could get a break from all the trips back and forth.  Now that the time is here, I have changed my mind.  I take back all those times I complained about the time I spent in my car.  I will happily continue to drive back and forth if it means keeping her safe forever.  Please pray for me. I might have a nervous breakdown. Mom life is HARD!

Anchored,

See Something, Say Something

The United Nations has designated today, July 30 as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.  It is a day to celebrate the thousands of survivors, show support to those that are still stuck in trafficking, and to bring about awareness and change. This is a cause that is near to my heart.  Before joining Trades of Hope, I was not aware that trafficking was so huge.  It just wasn’t something on my radar before then.  I knew that this horrific crime existed, but I never really gave it much thought.  Since I joined TOH, my eyes have been opened to this act of violence against others who are most vulnerable like the poor.  People are trafficking for many reasons such as forced labor and sexual exploitation.  It has become modern day slavery with an estimated 45 million people being held against their will in slavery today.  The estimated market value of illicit human trafficking is $150 billion.  Every single day people around the world are trafficked for profit.  Over 70% of these victims are women and girls, and nearly 1/3 of the victims are children.   These numbers are horrifying to me.  We MUST fight back against this disgusting crime. Today I just wanted to share some resources and ways you can help end trafficking. 

According to Unicef…
“Traffickers look for people living in poverty, those who are desperate, those without legitimate job options, those without educational opportunities, and the ones looking for a way to escape violence. At its most basic form, human trafficking is the buying and selling of people. It exists across continents and is facilitated through a variety of venues, but ultimately – human trafficking is an industry, and it profits from the exploitation of people. Human trafficking has been likened to modern-day slavery, and in many respects, the similarities are obvious.”

Ways to help bring awareness to human trafficking:

  • Post about World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on social media using the hashtags EndHumanTrafficking and #HumanTrafficking.
  • Wear BLUE (or a blue heart) as a symbol of unity. The Blue Heart is increasingly recognized as the international symbol against human trafficking, representing the sadness of those who are trafficked while reminding us of the cold-heartedness of those who buy and sell human beings.
  • Educate yourself and others.
  • Donate or volunteer at a local organization that helps survivors.You can easily find an organization near you with a simple Google search. You can also donate to any of the organizations listed below.
  • Join me in the fight against human trafficking and poverty as a Trades of Hope Partner or by shopping fair trade.
  • Recognize the signs of trafficking. Visit knowthesigns.org.
    • Victims may be easily startled or agitated.
    • Victims may be unsure of where they are or lack official ID.
    • Victims may be unable to explain injuries or possessions.
    • Victims may have strange markings/brandings/tattoos.
    • Victims may have unexplained hotel use.
    • Victims by be accompanied by a suspicious companion.
    • Victims be children who are dressed up to look older than they are.
  • See something, say something.  Keep your eyes open. You can make a report at makeareport.org or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).

Organizations working to abolish slavery:

Take a stand and make a difference.  Too many of lives are at stake to remain silent.  

Anchored,

Body Armor

As I sit here to write, I honestly don’t even know where this post is going to go today.  I have only posted once this week so far because it has just been a stressful week and things have been out of sorts.  No, I take that back. It isn’t that things have been out of sort…it is that I have been out of sorts.  There have been many things that I have been worrying about, and it seems like they all just came crashing in on me today.  All that I have been holding in is flowing freely this morning.  I almost didn’t even sit down to write today again, but writing out my feelings has always been therapeutic for me so here I am.  I tend to bottle things up and not let my true feelings emerge.  It is super hard for me to be vulnerable.  I have always had that tough girl mentality where I don’t let others see me struggle. Ever.  For so long, I have been the one that has to be strong for everyone else that it has just become a part of who I am. I take on everyone else’s struggles and problems but never share my own. I am the strong one…at least, that is what people always say because that is the persona that I put out there.  In all honesty, I am just good at hiding it from everyone else.  I hold things in until I can’t hold it anymore and then it all comes crashing out like today.  The thing is, though, that even when I am having these kinds of days, I still hide it from everyone else.  I don’t let others see me cry.  It is a very RARE occasion when I open up to someone else and allow them to see me vulnerable, but even then, I still hold back.  I have always viewed that as a sign of weakness.  I don’t see it as a weakness in others, but I definitely do in myself.   I know that this thinking is wrong and totally messed up, but I don’t seem to have any control over it. I honestly don’t even know where it comes from.  It is this weird idea I have put in my head.  As far as I have come in working on myself over the last couple of years, it is days like today when I realize I still have a long way to go.   I know it isn’t healthy to keep things bottled up. Seriously, I even tell this to people all the time.  I encourage people to open up to me or their loved ones and to let it all out.   I just can’t seem to follow my own advice.  

I know that there are many women that feel the same way and look at vulnerability as a weakness.  I see it in several of my friends as well.  I don’t know if it is a woman thing or a human thing to think that others can’t see us struggle, but I know that so many of us as women feel this way.  We put forth this strong facade and don’t let others truly in, all while we are crumbling on the inside. I know I personally even struggle with providing a balance in what I let my daughters see.  I want them to see me as a strong, independent woman who can take on the world, but I also want them to know that they can be vulnerable and that it’s ok to have fears and weaknesses.  The truth is that I never let them see me cry either.  They don’t know the struggles I face because I hide it from them just like I do from everyone else.  In the back of my head I know that this is just teaching them that they have to put on body armor like me and keep everyone out, but I don’t want that for them. I don’t want them to bottle up all their emotions like I have for my whole life. I want something different for them.

It is time for me to break down the walls and strip myself of the heavy body armor I have carried for so long, but I have no idea how.   This is a piece of the puzzle that I think I need the most work on in my journey to becoming the best version of myself.  I am really trying to at least give it all to God and be vulnerable before Him.  I think that is the best place for me to start. Hopefully, He can give me a different kind of armor that will give me the strength to be vulnerable in front of others.  The armor of God is definitely lighter and more powerful than the clunky one I created for myself. I encourage all of you to join me in taking off your body armor and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  

Anchored,

Parents Know Best

I have really tried to avoid this conversation, but I can no longer do that. The subject of the 2020-2021 school year has given me knots in my stomach for weeks. The venom and hatred spewed on social media on this topic is outrageous. Everyone has an opinion and they seem to think their opinion is the only one that matters. Many place judgements on anyone that disagrees with them. The mix of people who are for opening school and those against it cannot seem to agree on anything, and it has really gotten out of hand. Between the mask debate, transportation dilemma, and the overall safety of students and staff, no one agrees on much of anything. Let’s not even get into the argument on the quality of distance learning we all got in the spring either. I personally believe that there is no right or wrong answer here because it depends on each person’s individual situation. I could honestly choose two different scenarios for both of my children because they have very different needs, but neither are an option that I really feel good about. As a parent, it is hard not to get sucked into all of the discussions on social media despite how much we try to avoid it. I admit that I have gone down the rabbit hole more times than I care to admit, and all it does is just make me more anxious and nervous about my choices. We are all concerned about the health AND education of our children, but we are also all struggling with making the right choice. I feel like I am also struggling as a parent with a teacher brain. (Once a teacher, always a teacher whether you are actually in the classroom anymore or not.) This is actually one time that I do not regret not being in the classroom because the stress and strain this is putting on teachers is just as hard as it is for parents, only teachers have to think about their own well-being, their own family’s health, and what they think is best for their students. I have seen teachers be crucified over distance learning which they had very little control over in the spring and for their stance on returning to school. I’ve also seen school board members being threatened by individuals who don’t agree with them. It is all completely unacceptable behavior, and it is making us all crazy.

I am not writing this to tell you my opinion on going back to school. I am not here to argue with you over masks or the safety of your child. My only purpose for writing this is to try to discourage you all from joining in the arguments and hatred towards each other, school officials, government officials, or any Joe Schmoe on the internet. EVERYONE is trying to do the best they can given the circumstances. Spewing hatred and getting into arguments or debates over it isn’t doing anyone any good. It is in fact causing more harm. It is making everyone second guess what their gut is telling them to do, and it is causing dissention when we should be rallying together to figure out the safest and best way to educate our children. There is no perfect answer that is going to fit every teacher or every child. All we can do is try our best. We must accept that times have changed, and things aren’t going to go back to normal any time soon. This virus is not going to miraculously disappear overnight. No amount of arguing is going to change that. I encourage you to trust your own gut and instincts and make decisions based on your individual children. Try to stay off social media and tune out all the chatter. Avoid getting into debates. Do what is best for your child and your family regardless of what anyone else thinks. Be kind to teachers. This isn’t an easy decision for them either, and they haven’t been trained on how to do this. I guarantee you, though, that the majority of them just want what is best for their students and are giving it their all despite all the challenges.

My advice to you as a parent and a former teacher is to tune it all out.  I know that is easier said than done because I have struggled with it myself, but I am trying really hard to follow my own advice.  Take a good look at each of your children and decide what their specific needs are.  Then choose the option that best fits those needs and walk away.  Make your decision and let it go.  Don’t entertain anyone else’s opinion because their opinion doesn’t matter.  You know your child best and you don’t need anyone else to convince you otherwise.  Parents know best! No, your options may not be ideal or what you really want, but you have to pick whatever option gives your child the most of what he or she needs. 

I finally entered in my binding decision for my children yesterday, and I can’t tell you how much weight that has removed from my shoulders.  I do feel judged by some people, but that’s ok.  I am doing what I think is best for my kids.  I have made my choice based on my kids and not anyone else’s opinion, and now I am going to let it go. I am planning to remove myself from the groups on social media that are causing me anxiety and move on. That is all we can do, and it is all we have control over in these crazy times. Parents know best!

Anchored, 

Corna-Cation

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been MIA from the blog for a bit because I had two mini corona-cations back to back. It was sort of a last minute decision not to blog during that time because I wanted to be fully present for both trips.  I am calling them corona-cations because they were very different from our usual trips due to the many precautions that we had to take to keep everyone as safe as possible.  Masks, hand-sanitizer, and social distancing became normal part of both trips.  We did not go to any restaurants or any other adventures because we didn’t feel like that was safe. Despite the extra precautions, both trips for me were still a great success and a wonderful time was had by all. 

First, I spent 4 glorious days in the Outer Banks with 8 of my very best friends.  We have been doing this annual beach trip for, I think, nine years now.  This year’s trip got postponed due to the shutdown for COVID-19, but I am happy to report that it finally happened. We tried to all social distance as much as we could with 9 people in one house sharing beds, but I wasn’t too concerned since I knew everyone had been pretty isolated prior to the trip.  We didn’t share our usual hugs with everyone, and we tried not to drink or eat after each other.   We also did not go anywhere except to the beach and back.  A few of us got up early each morning and made our way to the beach so that we could secure a large socially distanced area for all of us to hang all day.  There were surprisingly more people on the beach than we are typically used to so getting a spot early was key.  We put up our cabana and spread our bags and chairs wide so that new beachgoers knew to stay away from us.  Most people were respectful of each other and everyone was trying hard to maintain distance as much as possible.  We pretty much spent our entire days at the beach since we couldn’t really go anywhere else.  We packed our own lunches and plenty of drinks and snacks to last us through the whole day.  I don’t think that we have ever spent that much time just talking and hanging out on the beach before.  We usually only spend a few hours a day at the beach mixed in with shopping and dining out the rest of the time.  Since we couldn’t do that this year, we just stayed at the beach all day.  We had really good weather, calm waters, and overall great conversations. It was glorious.  Each evening, we headed back to the house in shifts to start showers, and then we took turns cooking dinner each night because we weren’t comfortable with going to a restaurant. After dinner each night, we played crazy games that resulted in so many laughs that there were tears rolling down our faces.  While this trip wasn’t like any of our others, it was exactly what we all needed.  All we really cared about was spending time together and having fun which we did beyond measure.  

After that trip, I can home for two days before the whole family packed up and made the long drive to South Carolina to visit our family, who we haven’t seen since Christmas.  It was very alarming to us to see the difference in safety measures the closer we got to South Carolina as we made stops along the way on the 10-hour trip.  During our initial bathroom stops, everyone we passed was wearing a mask and walking far away from each other. Then, the closer we got to our destination, we encountered tons of people without masks who didn’t seem to make any effort to not walk close to you.  It was a bit scary to us to see that because it is such a sharp contrast from what we have been living the past few months at home.  It was quite interesting to see how the different states are handling things and showed why there is now a spike in COVID cases in many of those states that have been more lenient with their restrictions.  I feel like I was personally more nervous on this trip than I was on my beach trip.  I am not sure if that was because the restrictions were way less down there and, therefore, more concerning to me or if it was because I was around my parents, father-in-law, and my grandparents who are all at a greater risk than we are due to age and pre-existing conditions. I would feel so horrible knowing that we exposed one of them to this horrible virus if one of them were to get sick.  I guess it is probably a combination of both that made me more nervous, but it definitely made me extra cautious.  Before we even left for the trip, I questioned if it were the right thing to do to go down there, but we felt like we should make the trip to see our family when we have the opportunity since it doesn’t happen very often.  I am glad that we went because spending time with family is so important.  My kids got to spend time with their cousins at the lake tubing and having a blast, and we all got to spend time with our loved ones celebrating Independence Day. There were no big fireworks displays this year and no huge BBQs, but we enjoyed a small family gathering for lunch instead. 

While both trips were changed by the new norm, both of them turned out to be more than we expected. We all got just what we needed out of them. I strongly believe that nothing is more important that spending time with the people we love.  Maybe things will never get back to the old norm, but we will continue to adapt and make the most out of what we are given.  I am aware that some of you may think that we shouldn’t be going anywhere at all, and maybe you are right. However, I think that we did the best we could to protect ourselves and those that we came into contact with. I also believe that we have to continue with our lives as much as possible and make the most of the cards we have been dealt in these crazy times. I think as long as you are careful and are smart about what you are doing, there is nothing wrong with taking a mini corona-cation. I am happy with both of mine and am counting down the days for the next ones whenever they may be and whatever they may look like. 

Anchored,

Giving Up Control

La Luz Necklace/Moxie Hoops/Crew Neck Tee (This color tee is no longer available.)

I really thought that the summer was going to drag on since we are still pretty much stuck in the house with not much to do, but it is actually going by pretty fast.  We are nearing the end of June already and things are rolling right along.  I am struggling a bit this week because I am conflicted.  My annual girls’ beach weekend that was postponed in May is finally here, and I CANNOT wait.  I know you guys are probably sick of hearing about it already, but I can’t really express how much this weekend means to me each year and how much I love spending time with my tribe.  My conflict comes because this weekend is also cheer tryouts for my girls.  While I know that my husband can handle it, I’m still struggling with not being here for them.  I think part of that comes from just being a mom, but I also think some of it has to do with the fact that my husband has been deployed for so much of our marriage.  I have always had the responsibility of doing these types of things with the girls on my own.  I’m not used to letting him take on this kind of tasks with the girls.  There is nothing wrong with it, and like I said, he can handle it.  It’s just different for me.  In the past I would have had to miss out on my girls’ trip or beg my mom to make the long drive to help because I didn’t have any other choice.  Even though it has been two years since he last deployed, I think that the adjustment of having him here to help is something that is going to take a while for me to get used too.  He has done shore duties before where he didn’t deploy for a couple of years at a time, but he was always still traveling a lot and not home very much.  Now that he has reached the point in his career that he is no longer going to deploy and only take a few short trips here and there, I am learning to rely on his help more and more.  Just yesterday, I scheduled an appointment for myself not thinking much of it.  I was pleasantly surprised when my husband got home and mentioned trying to work around his schedule so that he could go with me.  It honestly never occurred to me that he would go with me.  Again, I am just used to doing it all on my own.  I was really touched that he thought he should go and that he was going to make the effort.  He has rarely been able to do things like that before.  Of course, I don’t need him to go, but the thought was very touching to me and really meant a lot.

This is a dilemma that I think all military wives face.  We get used to doing things on our own.  We hardly ever ask for help, and we somehow make it all work.  It is a sacrifice that most of us gladly make for our families so that our spouses can protect and defend our country.  It’s not easy and sometimes we feel like breaking, but we manage the best we can.  Some of the strongest, most courageous women I know are military spouses.  You would think that we would all welcome the day when our spouse is home to help, but it isn’t that simple.  When you have lived this life for a long time like I have doing things on your own and in your own way, it is hard to not only willingly accept help, but it is also hard to give up control.  It is not that I want control of everything. Trust me, I don’t.  It just that it has always been me doing it all alone. That is what I a used to.  For example, the past two years, both of my girls (one in cheer and one in gymnastics) had conflicting competition schedules.  Before my youngest became involved in cheer, I was always traveling with my oldest for all of her gymnastics competitions all the time dragging my youngest with us.  My husband was rarely home during competition season.  When my youngest started cheer two years ago, it quickly became apparent that my husband and I were going to have to split up because I clearly couldn’t be at two places at once, and he was here now to help.  It just worked out that he traveled for gymnastics since my oldest didn’t need a lot of help, and I traveled for cheer to do hair and makeup.  It was extremely hard for me not to be with my oldest and to miss out on so many of her competitions.  I did not like it that he got to go, and I didn’t.  I had been the one with her for so many years that it was hard for me to share it and give up control of traveling with her. While I was happy that he finally got to see her compete every competition, I was super jealous that I didn’t.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with my youngest to see her compete too.  It was that I really wanted to be with both. I wanted to split myself in half like I have been doing for years and be with both. I don’t know how I would have managed it all if he still was deploying, but I would have figured out a way to make it work.  

While I am learning to let go of control of a lot of things and learning to accept help, I have to admit that it isn’t easy.  Doing it all was my way of life for 18 years. That’s a long time.  It’s hard to break habits that have been going on for that long.  It is even harder for me to ask for and accept help.  I am beyond grateful that my husband is here to share the load and that my stress and anxiety levels are lower than they have ever been. Plus he finally gets to be fully present in our kids lives. Despite it being two years now, it is clear that I am still getting used to this new stage in our lives.  I have to undo 18 years of thinking and acting, and that isn’t going to happen overnight.  This weekend will be amazing and hard for me all at once.  I usually don’t call home much when I am on my trip, but this time I am requesting frequent updates and details from all three on tryouts so that I feel like I am there too. I am not going to let it damper my time with my tribe, but a small part of me will be feeling like I am missing out and that I am skipping out on my duties as a mom.

Anchored and Learning to Let Go,

  

Mid-Year Renewal

I was just sitting here thinking about the fact that we have pretty much made it halfway through 2020.  This is definitely a year for the history books and one that will be talked about for generations to come.  This year has not gone like any of us have planned.  I know I started the year out with my new word of the year, RELENTLESS.  I wanted to be relentless in my actions and my emotions.  I wanted to be relentless in my work and in my self-growth, not giving up and not stopping.  I wasn’t going to let things stand in my way.  The forced slow down sort of made me lose sight of the word and why I chose it in the first place.   It was hard to be relentless in action when I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything.   I felt discouraged and maybe a little lost in the midst of it all.  There was a time when I felt like I was at a standstill and my work, my own self-growth, and my emotions were going nowhere.  I felt like I wasn’t living the word that I had committed to.  I felt like I was failing miserably because I was letting the shut down and stay at home order affect me in negative ways.  That’s when God stepped in and gave me a kick in the pants yet again.  He reminded me of the reasons that I chose the word in the first place.  He reminded me of the areas that I said I wanted to be relentless in and prompted me to go back and read that post from January where I chose my word.   

Here is a recap of what I said then.

I want to be relentless just like God is in his love for us. I want to be relentless in all I do.  I want to be so focused that nothing can stop me.    I want to be RELENTLESS IN LOVE—love for my family, my friends, and every person I come across. I want to be RELENTLESS IN FAITH—ever growing in my relationship with Christ.  I want to be RELENTLESS IN WORK—fighting for injustice and making a global impact with the work I do with Trades of Hope. I want to be RELENTLESS IN DREAMS—doing everything in my power to make all of my dreams come true. I want to be RELENTLESS IN GROWTH—continuing to work on growing and becoming the best version of myself.  I want to be RELENTLESS IN JOY—seeking joy and choosing joy in everything I do.

Allison Clark January 7, 2020

God made me realize that I could still be living out my word even while I was stuck at home with nothing to do, but it would just look a little different than I had originally thought. My priorities shifted a bit, and I realized that I needed to be relentless in different areas of my life too.  Things that had been pushed to the side for so long were suddenly at the forefront of my mind.  I could still be relentless in love, faith, work, dreams, and growth but in different ways.  I made up my mind to get back on track and make myself be relentless.  

RELENTLESS IN JOY

At first it was hard to see joy in this whole drastic change in our lives.  It was hard to see the good when there was so much fear and misinformation going around.  However, I started to choose to see the good in everything that was going on in the world.  I chose to focus on all the positives that have come from this instead of the negatives.  Yes, I still got annoyed and sad when things got canceled or with the schooling situation, but I chose not to dwell on those things.  I chose to be relentless in choosing joy every single day.  I wake up every morning and tell myself that today is going to be a good day. Then I make myself proclaim at least one thing that I am grateful for in the midst of the chaos. It just sets me up for a joy filled day.

RELENTLESS IN WORK

I initially felt like my Trades of Hope business and my blog were suffering with the pandemic.  Vendor events got canceled and I was struggling with asking people to buy products and host parties with me when so many people were struggling financially.  I was also struggling with writing this blog.  It was difficult to think of things to write about other than the pandemic when there was nothing going on in my life.  I felt guilty when I skipped a day of writing because I felt like I was letting myself down.  When I got my wakeup call from God, I realized that I had something to offer others, something that could and would bring hope to others.  I chose to participate in a challenge to spread hope live every single night for the month of April.  I went live on my Facebook page and just shared joy and hope to whoever chose to watch for 30 days straight.  That really ignited a new fire in me for my work to empower women and to make a difference in the world.  It gave me the longing to continue to write posts and share my life with the world, but it also made me realize that it was ok to not write a post every day.  It was ok for me to skip days when I had nothing to say.  I wasn’t letting myself down by doing that. Instead, I used those days when I had nothing to write to focus more on my Trades of Hope business.  When that happened, I started getting tons of feedback about my work and I started booking parties out of the blue.  It was amazing to see the shift just by changing my mindset.  

RELENTLESS IN FAITH

The thought of not being able to go to church for worship was difficult for me.  I wasn’t sure that viewing our service online was going to fill my cup like going to church usually did for me.  Boy was I wrong.  I have gotten as much if not more from our online services.  We have not yet skipped a service since the shutdown occurred and that would not have been the case if life had carried on as normal.  We tend to miss out on going to church a lot because of travel with our kids’s sports.  I think this is probably the longest stretch of time that we haven’t missed a Sunday in years.  My cup is overflowing for sure and my relationship with Christ is only growing.

RELENTLESS IN LOVE

This is the one where my priorities have probably shifted the most.  It is easy for me to be relentless in my love for my family, friends, and others I meet.  What I have learned, though, is that it is much harder for me to be relentless in love for myself, and that is an area that I need to work on.  As I have shared over and over again, I tend to have this negative talk in my head about how I am not good enough, and I am not worthy enough.  I am working to correct this, but it is very difficult for me.  I also don’t spend enough time on self-care because I don’t make myself a priority. Now that I have all the time in the world, I have realized that I needed to be relentless with my time in the future.  I needed to be relentless in taking time for myself for self-care.  I needed to be relentless in creating a schedule that doesn’t run me into the ground and wear me out, but instead to create a schedule that offers time for recharging daily. I need to make time for me to love on myself. This one is certainly going to continue to be a work in progress, but it is one that I need to focus on because it is so important.  

RELENTLESS IN GROWTH

I am pretty sure that this is the only one that has remained a constant for me.  All of the change and realizations from above are a part of my growth.  It is a part of me discovering what is important to me and how I view the world and myself.  Growing as person and in who I want to be is a job that I will never retire from.  I strongly believe that you can never stop growing and learning and becoming a better version of yourself piece by piece.  

I have no clue where the rest of this year is going to take me. I have no idea of what the future holds. The one thing I do know is that I am not going to loose sight of my word again. For my mid-year renewal, I am recommitting to being RELENTLESS.

Anchored and Relentless,

Worthy of Being Chosen

Chosen.  That is such a loaded word.  By simple definition it means being selected as the best or most appropriate.  It is a word that came up two different times for me already this morning which has caused me to do a lot of reflecting.  It first appeared during my daily devotion where I was reading about how we are each individually chosen by God for a purpose.  Then it came up again when I watched a Trades of Hope training video talking about how we have been chosen to make a difference in the world.  I have been thinking about times in my life when I was chosen for who I am.  Going back to the simple definition of the word, I immediately start to think about those times that I was chosen but didn’t feel like I deserved it because it didn’t feel like I was the “best or most appropriate.”  An example that comes to mind is from a few years ago. I was chosen as my school’s teacher of the year and then chosen a few months later as the city-wide teacher of the year out of over 40 other individuals who were the best of the best.  While that was probably one of the biggest honors I have ever been chosen for, I have never felt like I deserved it.  I have had the privilege of working with some of the most incredible teachers in the world over my career, and I always felt like many of them deserved to be chosen way more than I did.  I am certainly nothing special.  You see how my mind immediately goes to comparison?  I have to remind myself all the time not to do that.  

I think many of us feel undeserving a lot of times and often find that we are comparing ourselves to others.  I know I do.  In fact, I am not sure there is a time in my life that I was chosen for something or by someone that I didn’t have those feelings of doubt and unworthiness. Why do we do that? Why do we not feel worthy of being chosen or that someone else is better or more deserving than us?  I wish I knew the answer to that.  As much as I get on here and write about struggles and how to fix them, sometimes I need to remind myself to take my own advice.  God placed the word chosen on my heart today. I don’t know if that is because it is something I need to reflect on for myself or if it is a message one of you needs to hear, but I feel like it is probably a little bit of both.   

One way that was suggested to me years ago to help to turn the narrative around in my head is to use positive affirmations.  We have to turn the negative feelings and thoughts of unworthiness into a positive statement that needs to be repeated over and over again out loud to ourselves.  In the case of the example I used above, I need to tell myself that I was chosen as the teacher of the year because I worked hard and was passionate about my students and their needs. I was chosen because I was worthy of the honor.  By turning the negative thought into a positive, I am able to change the narrative in my head.  The more you tell yourself you are worthy, the more likely you are to believe it.  Post those affirmations around your house or your office if you have to.  Speak them out loud daily. You have to really commit to the affirmations for them to work, or the negative thoughts will leave you at a standstill.  They won’t allow you to grow, learn, and change unless you reverse them to positives.  Wouldn’t you rather tell yourself that you are worthy of being chosen rather than telling yourself you aren’t? Sadly, that is exactly what we all do, though.

Another way to change the narrative in your head is to stop comparing yourself to others. This is probably one of the hardest things for me (and likely many of you) to do. It is hard not to see someone else as more valuable or more deserving than you, but I’m here to tell you that comparison steals your joy.  It will rob you of happiness and take away the value of being the one who was chosen.  No one is you but you, and you are the only one that you should be comparing yourself to. Are you better today than you were yesterday? That is what truly matters and is the only kind of comparisons you should be making when it comes to your self-worth.  You are unique and special.  You were chosen for whatever is making you feel unworthy because of who you are.  You. Not anyone else. Whenever those thoughts of comparison start to creep in, immediately put a stop to them by repeating your affirmations. Tell yourself that Sally isn’t really better than you. She is just different.  She has her own unique strengths and those are different than your strengths. One is not better than the other, just different.

Always remember, you were and are chosen because of who you are.  You alone are worthy.  Whether it is that you are chosen by your spouse, chosen to be the mom of your children, chosen to be a leader at work, chosen to win an award, or whatever else you are chosen for, YOU ARE WORTHY.  You were selected as the “best or most appropriate” because you deserved it.  Tell yourself that every single day because it is the truth. 

Anchored,

Speak Up

I will admit that I have been hesitant to write this post today because I am not sure that I have the right words to say, but I do feel like it is my duty as a Christian to speak up.  What is happening in our world right now hurts my heart in so many ways.  My heart aches for all of my friends who are black.  I won’t even say that I can imagine how you are feeling right now because I know that I can’t.  I cannot even begin to fathom what it is like to be automatically judged by everyone because of the color of my skin.  I have never experienced it and likely never will.  Seeing my friends pouring out their hearts on social media in anguish and fear makes me sick.  It has to stop. 

I was raised to know and love Jesus Christ.  Because of that I grew up knowing that God called us to love above all else.  The song “Jesus Loves Me” was sung to me many times by my grandmother when I was little.  I can still hear her voice singing it right now.  She would tell me that Jesus loves us all “red, yellow, black, and white” and that we are all “precious in his sight” just like the song says. I believed her then and still do now that I am grown and she is gone.  In God’s eyes, we are all equal, but in this world here on Earth we aren’t.  We never have been.  What is happening right now is proof of that.  We are not living out God’s word in real life.  The golden rule is to love your neighbor as yourself, and I can’t say that any of us are truly following that rule.  We may love those neighbors that look just like us, but do we really love those that don’t?  If we did, these senseless killings would not be occurring at such an alarming rate.  People wouldn’t feel the need to riot to have their voices heard. Men wouldn’t be afraid of being harmed while on a run in their neighborhood. Mothers of boys who are black wouldn’t be scared to death to raise their sons in this world filled with hate.  We are not following the golden rule.  We are all guilty whether we believe we are or not.  It’s the hard truth of our world, and it is sickening. 

I strongly believe that God also calls us to fight against the injustices of the world.  I know that my God, the God of love, hates injustice.  He desires for us to put an end to it and speak out against it.  We can no longer remain silent and ignore what is happing right in front of our faces. One race should not be treated any differently than any other, but that is what has happened over and over again.  I don’t have all the answers on how to fix it, but I know that it starts with love in its purest form, the love of Jesus Christ. Without it, this hatred will never end.  As another popular song says, He is the “Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, and Light in the Darkness.”  I truly believe that. If anyone can bring about change, it is Him. I pray with all my heart that we can come together as one nation and make real change happen. It starts with more Jesus, more love, more peace, and more justice.

To all of my friends in the black community who are hurting, I am sorry.  I am sorry for every wrong that has ever been done to you because of the color or your skin.  I am sorry for all the fear you have had to live with every day that I can never understand. I want to you to know that I am blessed to know you and to call you my friend.  You are loved by me, but most importantly, you are loved by God. You are strong.  You are held. You belong.  You are a child of God. That above all else is the message I want you to hear.  I am standing with you and for you, and I will do my part to try to create real change.  

Anchored,

Pandemic Roller Coaster

Does anyone else feel like you have been on the longest roller coaster ride ever? It’s almost like I got on this ride back in March and have yet to get off. Sometimes the highs are so high and the lows are so low that I can barely hang on.  All of the twists and turns along the way have me spinning in circles.  It’s this roller coaster of emotions that we have been on since this whole pandemic started.  Oh, and by the way, I don’t even like roller coasters! In fact, they make me sick and dizzy, and I try to avoid them at all costs.  I sure am ready to get off!

You know how many roller coasters start out with a slow, steady climb upwards? That is how this whole thing started.  We suddenly jumped on this ride and started to slowly make that climb.  We were all in a little of bit of disbelief and denial of what was coming ahead. We kept hearing bits and pieces about this new virus on the news, but we didn’t really think it would affect us. Then schools were abruptly canceled, and people had to take off work. Maybe there would be few bumps and twists, but our initial anticipation was that this could be fun. We would enjoy a few unexpected days off of work and school and then things would get back to normal. Little did we know that we were about to reach the top and be hurdled downward.

Unfortunately, we eventually got to the top of that slow, steady climb into the sky and were teetering on the edge looking down.  The fear was starting to creep in. We were about to make a huge plunge into the darkness, and the ride looked like it was going to be longer and wilder than we had ever imagined.  Schools were canceled for the rest of the year. Stay at home orders were put into place. Thoughts were swarming around in our heads that this couldn’t really be happening in 2020.  It couldn’t possibly be real life.  We were afraid of all the things they were saying on the news.  People were becoming infected at alarming rates, hospitals were filling up, and people were dying.  We decided at the top that we didn’t really want to be on this ride because what lay ahead didn’t seem so fun anymore. We wanted to get off as fast as possible.   

Usually when you get past that initial plunge in the ride, you get to the fun and exciting parts of the roller coaster.  This is the part most people enjoy. It is when the hands come up and you are flying carefree through the sky.  This Pandemic Roller Coaster was no different.  Once we got over our fear and settled in to this new normal, we started to have fun.  We realized that this ride, although unexpected, was one we all needed and we accepted it.  It caused us to slow down and appreciate the ride.  We got to spend time with our families that we typically never had.  We got to take a break from the craziness of our everyday lives.  We were truly enjoying the ourselves.  Yes, there were some sharp curves initially with people having to figure out childcare for their kids, how to manage teleworking, and the lack of toilet paper and certain foods. However, there was so much good that was happening that was outweighing the bad initally. We were laughing and smiling in ways that we hadn’t in years.  We were stepping up to help our fellow neighbors. We were exercising and spending time outside.  We were doing the things we normally didn’t have time for like household projects, movie nights, games, puzzles, and more. We were having incredible drive by birthday celebrations and the community really rallied together. 

It really was incredibly fun for a while, but then the ride turned upside down and sideways and that made some of us angry, some filled with anxiety, and some maybe even depressed.  Balancing it all became really hard and we were overwhelmed.  People started losing their jobs. The economy plunged downward. Some were worried about how they were going to put food on the table.  Businesses were trying to keep from going under.  Distance learning started, and parents were having to figure out how to balance work and homeschooling. Kids were struggling to keep up with their lessons. Teachers were barely keeping their heads out of the water.  We were struggling to keep it all together.  We started missing our old lives. We were missing things that we used to do and our friends and extended families. We were longing for things to get back to normal, but there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. We were exhausted and just wanted the ride to be over. 

Then, the ride eventually slowed down.  We got into the grove of it all. There started to be talk of reopening, and we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We have again been filled with a little fear, but we were excited at the same time to start to get back to whatever the new normal is going to be.  Some of you are further along in this part of the ride than others.  Where I live, we are still under a stay at home order and have not yet started phase 1 of reopening.  Others of you are getting ready to head into phase 2 already.  I am seeing social media posts of happy and relieved people who have been able to get their hair done and their nails done.  I am seeing people heading back to work and businesses reopening the best they can with restrictions.  I could be wrong, but it looks like this crazy roller coaster is coming to some sort of end.  I’m not sure any of us will ever be the same once we get off or that we really want to be.  Sometimes when you get off of a rough roller coaster, it takes you some time to feel steady on your feet.  We all may be a little wobbly and dizzy at first, but I really think that we are going to land on our feet again eventually.  I truly believe that this Pandemic Roller Coaster was designed by God to give us a wakeup call.  No matter how long it lasts, if there are more hills to climb, or we end upside down again, I firmly believe that God has ultimate control and will lead us down the right track.  We will come out stronger and better all-around on the other side. We will eventually get off this ride. My hope is that we will look back on the Pandemic Roller Coaster ride and remember all that we overcame and know that we are stronger than we ever imagined. I hope that we have learned whatever it was that God wanted to teach us. I know for me that lesson was to slow down and value the important things. I have learned to let go of the trivial things in my life. I just pray that it is a lesson that sticks! Whatever your lesson may be, I hope you find it and are better for it. I believe the end is near, my friends. Just keep that belt buckled and keep holding on for a little longer. We’ve got this!

Anchored in for the ride,