Change

Frank and I keep a change jar in the guest room. We try to throw any loose change we have in pockets or wallets into it. Even if I know I have exact change, I’ll usually break a bill just to help fill the jar. It’s not very large, but about once a year or so, we’ll have between $150-$200.

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In the days pre-Bea, we filled the jar much more rapidly than now. One year we bought a bottle of Dom Perignon. One year we bought steaks and a bottle of wine three times our normal budget. Last year, we went on a lunch date and had exactly enough to cover our three course meal plus bottle of fancy wine.

When Bea was born, we wondered if the change jar would end up going toward household expenses, since we’d be down one income. Once the thought crossed our minds, we decided to choose to spend any change on ourselves – this would be just for us, just for splurges.

Even thought it’s taken longer to fill, I love watching the change in the jar grow. It’s a good reminder that romance, splurges, and just the two of us are the foundation for our family. I’m sure that, as we add kids, it will take even longer, but I’m guessing that means the dates and bottles of wine will be sweeter because we’ve had to work harder for them.

We’re quite a ways from this next jar filling, but I’m looking forward to seeing how we choose to spend our loose change.

Linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

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I Don’t Know

Do you ever relive moments that make you cringe, even years or decades later? Maybe it was how you reacted to someone or maybe it was something you said. Maybe it was a moment of vulnerability that went badly or perhaps it was a moment of insensitivity you wish you could rewrite.

In college my group of friends was typical for our age and space. (Though we would have argued we were vastly different from our peers!) We grappled with life and faith, read philosophers and theologians, smoked occasional cigarettes as we discussed Big Issues over espressos at Parisian cafes.

Neighborhood cafe

Neighborhood cafe

A certain subset of this group took things even farther, going deeper, taking pilgrimages, and really exploring the postmodern church. (These were the days before emergent entered our lexicon.) While I was fairly well-read in these areas, I was nowhere near the level of this smaller group. While at parties or at cafes, I could follow along a bit, but usually ended up nodding along, letting them do the talking.

At my going away party, another Big Discussion was happening and I kind of drifted off. By this time, I was tired of thinking about my faith and ready to live it. At some point in the conversation, of of the guys said, “Let’s change the subject. Annie doesn’t know what we’re talking about.” I know he didn’t mean it to sound harsh, but I was mortified. I thought I had done a fairly good job of nodding along.

Looking back, I wish my younger self had the courage to say I don’t know. Those words can be so difficult. They admit a deficiency, a lack of understanding, a certain way of putting myself as less than. They also would have saved me from embarrassing moments, when clearly I didn’t know what others were talking about.

Those three words also open doors. They allow someone else to be the expert – something most of us love. They give a certain vulnerability, yes, but also an underlying confidence in being open and willing to learn. They also let me off the hook for being an expert on everything. Had I simply said, “I didn’t know that! Tell me more!” I would have been able to stay in the conversation without the same expectation of participation.

Years later, these words can still be hard for me to say. I like to think I’m a well-read person, able to converse on a wide range of topics. This diversity in reading shouldn’t mean I’m an expert, though. This unwillingness to let others teach can build barriers rather than relationships.

Allowing others to tell me more and honoring their own experiences and knowledge is such a small but powerful way to show love. I guess some of that comes with maturity, but I wish my 22-year-old self had the confidence, the courage, and the self-awareness to let others teach and be the experts rather than trying to compete.

So now, whether discussing life experiences, faith journeys, political views, parenting practices, or any topic in between, I am practicing the art of listening. Of saying I don’t know. And, perhaps most importantly, following the I don’t know with Tell me more.

What do you wish you could tell your younger self? Are you a listener or an expert?

Linked with The High Calling’s A Letter to My Younger Self.

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Poets Anonymous: Wisdom of the Deer

Welcome to our monthly Poets Anonymous!

On the 15th of each month, I’ll post a poem. If you have a blog, post a poem on yours and share your link in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to share part of a poem in the comments. Or, I encourage you to simply read a poem today.

I must look back
And respectfully awaken the hero of my personal journey
the whole story
imperfections and all
is where the treasure resides
no need to be in the future
out there
in the next big thing
i already have one thing
a communion with my self.

Kent Osborne

Share a favorite poem (or segment of one) in the comments!

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Overwhelmed

Most days, I keep a certain distance from the news – I read throughout the day via headlines on Twitter and a few apps I’ve downloaded. I like being informed and strive to read a variety of sources. But, sometimes it feels overwhelming. Like we are so far from any sort of reconciliation. Like our world is spiraling.

Last night felt like that. As I read more and more about what is happening in Ferguson, I wondered what on earth I could do. I’d like to think that, if I lived in that suburb, I would be supporting the protestors. I would be doing something. The reality is I would probably be safe at home, horrified at the news down the street, but with the same feeling of helplessness. And of safety because of my status as a white woman.

This morning felt worse. And then I read Addie Zierman’s post, A Good Day to Come Awake – on choosing not to let fear isolate us from others; on choosing to believe the truth. I decided that, rather than feeling overwhelmed, I needed to be thankful for ways I can make changes to this system in my own small way.

I’ve been trying to expand my reading on racial reconciliation in the church. We go to a pretty white church and I think it’s important to be aware of these issues. Christianity Today posted Ten Books on Racial Reconciliation. Of those, I’ve read two – Disunity in Christ and The Next Evangelicalism, both well worth the time. I’ll be adding to my reading list based on these resources.

Working on a more multicultural collection

Working on a more multicultural collection

It’s a small thing, but we’ve been trying to expand the color of Bea’s dolls. She’s inherited some of my old ones (all white) so when we buy new ones, we look for dolls of different colors. For her birthday, she received Nahji from India and Miss Elaina from Daniel Tiger. In this little way, I hope to instill empathy and a normalcy in others who look different.

I know that in the midst of this chaos, these are minute things to do – reading and playing. But, for now, it’s what I can do in this moment. These small ways of being aware, of being intentional, and of trying to raise a generation with understanding, empathy, tolerance, and love for neighbor.

How do you process the news? Any suggestions for ways to fill hopeless news with reconciliation?

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Beautiful

Being the mom of a two-year-old daughter, I don’t have to worry too much about where Bea gets her perception of femininity and womanhood. I am her main role model, along with family and her friends’ moms. (Who are, at this stage, my friends. So, no worries there – all amazing women!) I do think about the day when TV characters move beyond Super Why and Daniel Tiger’s buddies and we step into the world of tween pop stars and girls finding their way into adulthood under the limelight. Until then, I’m trying to surround my daughter with strong, courageous women to help build a foundation of who she is and who she can become.

Looking around my Mothers of Preschoolers group, I see strong, confident, spirit-filled women. I see women in boots-over-jeans with a fashionable scarf draped carelessly and I see women in yoga pants and sneakers with a ponytail thrown up in hindsight. I see women who build absolutely necessary workout time into their schedules while others are still hoping the baby weight will somehow disappear, years later.

I see moms who put their children in daycare so they can work at getting a degree. I see moms with Master’s degrees, now staying home full-time. I see moms struggling to find a work-life balance and moms who question if they’re now obsolete by stepping out of the workforce.

Mostly, I see moms who care deeply for their children. Moms who laugh quickly and cry easily. (Tissues are never far from reach at our meetings.) I see moms taking risks and speaking Truth into each other’s lives.

I’m realizing more and more as I venture into this mothering journey that I cannot do this alone. I need other mothers to model parenting for me. I need other mothers to love my daughter on the days when it seems hard. I need other mothers to laugh with me in the middle of a meltdown at the museum. And, I need Bea to see these other mothers, working and playing with their own kids. I love that they are apart of my daughter’s life and I get to be part of their kids’ lives.

These women I’ve met (seemingly) randomly through MOPS come each week with successes and failures. As we laugh and cry and do life together, I am grateful for such a diverse support system. And when I think about the kind of woman I wish for my daughter to become, I think of these women. I think of a bit disheveled, beautifully loving, amazingly strong women and I hope they form her definition of femininity and beauty.

Do you have a parenting support system?

Linked with SheLoves Magazine’s monthly theme: Beautiful.

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52 Books

For the first time in my life, I made a reading goal for myself. Bea is at a wonderfully independent stage – I can sit in the playroom or backyard and read while she goes on her own little adventures. She likes to have me in eyesight, but doesn’t necessarily want me to interact with her during this playtime.

I decided to try to read 52 books this year – a book per week. Yesterday, I finished my 52nd book. Frank thought I should up my goal to 100 books for the year, but I think I’ll just go back to reading without goals. Or maybe I’ll use the rest of the year to finally tackle my copy of War and Peace. We’ll see…

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Of these 52 books, 13 were 5-star and only one was 1-star. I thought I’d share my top-5 favorite reads of the year so far. You can find all of my 5 star books over at Pinterest and all of my reading at Goodreads.

1) An Alter in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
This series of essays on life and faith was encouraging and thought-provoking. Brown’s ability to connect life-stories with lessons and thoughts on spirituality without it sounding like a short blog post was refreshing. It was a good reminder of what spiritual memoir can look like.

2) Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
I’ve kind of stalled out on the TV show, but Kerman’s memoir is an important book. She brings up questions of prison reform and social inequality through an engaging telling of her own experience in a minimum-security prison. She also gives a list of resources at the end, which I found helpful for the “now what?” questions I had upon finishing.

3) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This novel of a Nigerian woman who moves to the US for college and then back to Nigeria as an adult brings up important questions of race, fitting in, and immigrant culture. It’s a well-done novel – one in which you learn, which I enjoy. D.L. Mayfield wrote a wonderful review over at SheLoves magazine.

4) God Has a Dream by Desmond Tutu
Sometimes I can get mired down with the news – Why can’t we learn from our mistakes? Is it so hard to love our neighbors? Tutu’s thoughts on hope and reconciliation are as important today as they were ten years ago. I especially appreciated his point of view because he actively practices what he expresses.

5) Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland
I appreciated Cleveland’s view that we need to recognize differences in order to better understand each other. She talks about how we are wired to form groups – it’s a survival technique – but that we still need to be aware that we have more in common with The Other group than we’d like to think. This is a book I have connected to many other books and conversations, even after finishing it.

Have you ever made a reading goal? What are some 5-star books you’ve read this year?

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Review: Speak by Nish Weiseth

Growing up, I wished for a better story. One of overcoming obstacles, rebellion, and redemption. Of course, I’d have to actually live all those uncomfortable moments, which is definitely not my follow-the-rules personality. Instead, I shied away from sharing my own story and tended to add just as a qualifier: I’m just a student; Just a teacher; Just a mom… I’ve already shared about the road trip that gave me courage to share my own story with more intention and thought. Being more courageous, even in the vulnerability of blogging, has made me think more about my story and its significance in the lives of others.

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Nish Weiseth is a champion of stories and storytelling. She believes that stories can move us from finger pointing to problem solving (p 40). In her first book, Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, Weiseth gives many examples of how storytelling has changed her opinions about a person, a culture, or a preconceived notion.

Weiseth has strong ideals in the power of story. She has started a popular community of storytellers over at the collaborative blog, Deeper Story. She also links in the storytelling nature of Jesus, citing his interest in the stories of the marginalized (p 58).

Weiseth encourages her readers to be faithful to their stories, no matter how mundane.  She says,

“But I’m here to remind you of a fundamental truth: no matter how mundane, you’re already living a great story tha the world around you needs to hear.” (p 184)

She goes on to say that not everyone is called to build orphanages, cure disease, or save the world. But, everyone is called to be faithful to their own story. These are powerful words, and ones I think many of us need to hear. How are we living out our stories right now, in this moment?

My one criticism of Weiseth’s book is that, while she tells small stories of her own experiences, she doesn’t model overarching storytelling. I feel this book would have been much more powerful had she taken the plunge to be a bit more vulnerable with her own story. She gives us hints and tastes, but no resolutions. She also relies heavily on blog posts from a Deeper Story, citing them as example of how to tell good stories. Sometimes they support her chapters, other times they seem to be a stretch.

Overall, I’d recommend this book. I agree that when we are able to sit with others and are given room to tell our own stories and listen to those of others, divisions become smaller and the world becomes a bit more comprehensible.

Have you shared your story recently? If so, how has it empowered you? If not, what is holding you back?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of Speak. To enter, leave a comment about how storytelling has changed your perception – of yourself or others. I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, August 8, 2014. (United States addresses only.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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