Saying Yes

Saying yes…

Meant stepping out of my comfort zone, moving to Paris, spending an incredibly hard but incredibly important four years abroad, learning about myself, my faith, my world.

Saying yes means experiencing these moments.
Saying yes means experiencing these moments.

Saying yes…

Meant staying home, raising daughters, finding ways of fulfilling my strengths, of continuing to learn, of passing on traits and role models to the women of our future.

Saying yes…

Meant sitting at a table of strangers, of making awkward conversation, of learning about what it’s like to be a woman in today’s world of balance and having it all (or not), of finding my own unique mix of life-giving needs.

Saying yes…

Meant getting up early on a Saturday morning, meeting strangers in a parking lot, snowshoeing with a group of people I didn’t know, of unexpectedly meeting my husband.

Saying yes…

Meant sticking with community, even when it didn’t feel easy, even when I felt I was putting in more work than anyone else, even when I wanted to quit, even as I saw amazing friendships and conversations and ideas emerge from all that work.

Saying yes…

Is learning to say no to certain busy-ness and yes to quiet times at home, of learning that balance and the strength to recognize when no to one opportunity means yes to something quieter but often better.

Saying yes…

Sometimes means my own carefully formulated plans are no longer reality and that’s ok.

Saying yes…

Isn’t always the easiest or most natural response, but when I do say yes… I often find myself a more compassionate, complete person.

What have you learned from saying yes?

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

Celebrating Strong Women: Weapons of My Warfare

unnamed-1Today’s Strong Woman is Shannon Maddox, my first blogging friend. Shannon, aka “Auntie,” is a writer, artist, and musician whose 9 to 5 …well actually 5 to 9… job is as a Member Care Specialist at her local YMCA.  Her blog, The Iron Diva (www.iron-diva.blogspot.com), chronicles her ongoing quest for total health (and anything else that may be swilling around in her grey matter).  She resides in Weaver, Alabama.  

The Weapons of My Warfare

Thanks to my sister-in-blog, Annie, for the opportunity to share.

When I looked up the word strength in the dictionary, among every definition was a common theme—power.  Power conjures up the image of a superhero with superpowers.

Most people would understand my power if I were a wife, a mom, or a CEO.  But don’t be fooled, I have mighty weapons they in themselves don’t seem like very much, but they bring strength and courage to others.

The First Weapon:  A Crochet Hook

Picture in your mind a young lady pregnant for the first time with a child who wasn’t planned.  Then picture a 30-something career woman who feels she doesn’t have time for a baby right now.  Then picture a 40-something divorce’ pregnant with her fourth child.  Her husband cheated on her, and she really doesn’t want any reminders of him to deal with.  Now, bring her to a pro-life crisis pregnancy center.  Not only does she get kind, loving words, but real help.  The first gift she receives is a pair of baby booties.  Why?  She needs to know that there is a real little person with feet growing in her womb.  Not tissue, not a cluster of cells, and not a mistake to be erased, but a real person to love.  The baby booties give her power to carry her child to term and care for the child or lovingly give him up for adoption.  I’ve made hundreds of pairs of booties for our local center and plan to make 100’s more.

My crochet hook also brings comfort and strength to deployed or wounded soldiers, joy and strength to the elderly in nursing homes, and loving strength to children fighting illness.

The Second Weapon:  A Paint Brush

Nehemiah 8:10 says “…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Recreating the beauty of the world on a canvas or paper not only brings me joy, but shares that joy with all who will look.  Art critics are notorious for saying that a piece should “say” something.  The main “statement” of my art is “Feel the joyous strength.”  If I can’t relay that message, anything else I try to say will be lost.

My paintbrush brings joyous strength to all who view it on my blog or social media pages, those who purchase or receive it as a gift, and to my local senior citizens center.  I am on the lookout for ways that my paintbrush can bring even more strength to those who need it.

The Third Weapon:  A Keyboard or Pen

I hold true to the old adage “The pen is mightier than the sword” though sometimes my “pen” is a computer keyboard.  Words have power.  Proverbs describes words as having the ability to build or tear down.  The Bible also says that words reveal the true nature of the heart.  I try to use my words to build up the good and tear down the evil.  Others have found strength through the words of my blog or essays I’ve written.  Some found strength to keep fighting for their health, while others have taken up the “pen” themselves to pass on their own version of strength.

For those who only see one kind of power, my weapons may seem flimsy and not up to the task. For those who truly understand that power and strength come in multiple forms, my weapons are mighty indeed.

Staying Hydrated

When I lived in Nepal, clean drinking water was not easily accessible. Fortunately, in Kathmandu, there were options. Most of the members of my team bought disposable water bottles throughout our three month stay. I don’t remember who thought of it, but for Christmas my parents gave me an REI model backpacking pump. I would fill the sink in my bathroom each day and pump water into Nalgene bottles. I would then fill smaller bottles to take on the road. It became part of my daily morning ritual, and after a while I didn’t think too much about the added time in the morning.

When I returned home, it took a couple weeks to get over the novelty of simply turning on the tap for a glass of water. I had assumed the wonder would wear of more quickly, but I did pause and wonder each time I so easily accessed water.

232323232fp5437->nu=32-;>3-5>7;8>WSNRCG=38<94-<4<732-nu0mrjThe summer of Bea’s first birthday, we introduced her to an important Colorado accessory: The water bottle. She adored her “big girl” water bottles and one of her first phrases was “Stay hydrated!” Especially living at a higher elevation, drinking enough water throughout the day is a necessity. Even the phrase, stay hydrated! shows our privilege. We can drink water for exercise, to stay healthy, if we have an itch in our throats. Our pets have access to clean, filtered drinking water. We even pour water down the drain for a fresh glass. Water is consumed without thought.

I think most of us in wealthy countries with access to regulated drinking water in our own homes realize that privilege. We see the effects of water-bourne illness each year during Christmas campaigns to sponsor children. Many of us have participated in well building fundraisers. Sometimes, I wonder, Another fundraiser?! How many wells need to be built?

The answer? Many more! According to water.org, 840,000 people die each year from a water related disease. Every minute, a child dies from a water related disease. 1 in 9 people lack access to safe drinking water. The numbers continue…. The answer? We still need to help build wells, to help give others access to the water we take for granted.

11830667_10205790011041948_900574549_nA few weeks ago, The Mom Quilt, a collection of essays written by women about motherhood was launched. Its goal is to raise $40,000 by Thanksgiving to build a well for the mothers living at Mercy House Kenya, a home for teen moms. Currently, water is trucked in from miles away, making the moms and staff at Mercy House dependent on outside sources for their daily water needs. A well on the property would eliminate the time, expense, and stress of waiting for water delivery.

To help alleviate this stress and to assist in freeing up this expense so that Mercy House can focus its money on other necessary resources, Paula Rollo, Becky Mansfield, and Jodi Durr decided to compile a collection of essays to raise money for this cause. (My essay is Gracefully Messy Motherhood.)

Each ebook is $9.99, though you can choose to donate more at checkout. A PDF copy will be emailed to you and you can choose to read it directly on your computer or, if you have a Kindle, can convert it to your e-reader. After the $40,000 is raised, there are thoughts to sell it as a “regular” book, but for now, we want as many dollars to go to the women at Mercy House. By selling it in a PDF format, 100% of the proceeds go to building this well.

So, will you consider partnering with us to help Mercy House? The gift of accessible water is invaluable.

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Celebrating Strong Women: Grateful for Strong Legacies

IMG_3325This week, it is my pleasure to introduce my sister-in-law, Mary Beth Rim. Mary Beth is delighted and honored to participate in Celebrating Strong Women. She is a filmmaker and accountant currently residing in Media, Pennsylvania. She loves life, loves goodness and loves happy endings.

Grateful for Strong Legacies

My journey is not one of enormous struggle or enormous success. It is not one of divine inspiration or aha moments. I come from a white middle class family, had the opportunity for top education, the opportunity to travel, the opportunity and encouragement to follow my dreams. My life has had the privileges of many middle class Americans and I do not take this for granted. I am very grateful.  My journey has been only 38 years long and much road is yet to come. Full of all the laughter, tears, betrayals, triumphs and lessons that 38 years can offer, here is where I stand…

I live in Media, Pennsylvania in a cozy house tucked in the woods with my husband Brad, our two children Grace Eve (6) and Rosalie Elle (2), and our Chihuahua Emma Marie (8). As the majority of names imply, our house is full of an abundant amount of females. I must also mention, my youngest sister and niece are currently living with us.  A 6:1 female to male ratio. Brad deserves a medal.  

Many amazing, wise women have shaped who I am and have influenced me in everything from what perfume to wear to what social justices to fight for. I’d like to highlight several of them from my paternal and maternal lineage.

To start off, hanging above me as I type is a framed picture and newspaper article of my paternal Grandmother. In 1920, and only 8 years old, she took a boat from Italy to Ellis Island. She went on to make history by being the first woman to receive her insurance license in the State of Pennsylvania. In 1940, she opened her own business and became a woman ahead of her time. She was a pioneer and blessed with bravery. As a child I just knew her as my mom-mom. A women who made her own clothes and the best food I ever tasted. She carried small Snickers bars in her hand bag and went to church every morning. She was not to be reckoned with and had an intimidating presence. I never felt entirely close to her, but I always had enormous respect for her. She passed her bravery and adventure along to her daughter, my beloved Aunt, who left the East Coast and settled in Oklahoma where she ran her own business and supported her husband in his political pursuits. After the passing of her husband, she raised their two boys alone. My Aunt was my idol and I often dressed like her and wore my hair exactly as she did. My Aunt always smelled like flowers and pretty women, and her home was full of beautiful antiques and books. She was strong, talented, classy and an amazing mother. I would count the minutes until we saw each other again. And when we did, my eyes went googley. I still adore and admire her and she has much wisdom left to bestow on me.

My maternal grandmother was a radio show actress, had green eyes and red hair. She was kind, always politically correct and incredibly nurturing. She was the kind of women who made jello molds and tuna fish casseroles. She wrote humorous scripts alongside of keeping journals full of adorable things her three children would say. To me she was super fun. We would sleep over, stay up real late, watch Saturday Night Live and eat wheat thins. We played Boggle, Scrabble and hang man. I loved this woman and secretly always wanted to hear her curse, but she never did. (Sounds bizarre, perhaps I will delve into this strange desire in my next essay.) This woman passed her love of culture, love of literature and love of the arts onto her two daughters. My fantastically fun and creative maternal Aunt also ran her own business. A balloon making business! It was amazing. Her home was full of balloons and helium tanks and little toys to put inside the balloons. She loved me and my siblings, we could feel it, and we loved her right back. I always wanted to visit her in New Jersey and it still holds true to this day.

This brings me to my mother. My mother is real. She is human. She is constantly growing and learning from life. She gave me life and has taught me the most about it and I will be eternally grateful to her. She is like a hummingbird and her eternal love and belief in me is the most incredible feeling. May my girls be as lucky as to feel this from me.

These are just a handful of women who have touched me along my journey. I am lucky enough to have so, so many more. If anything, I am feeling so grateful. So unbelievably grateful to so many wonderful women in my life, my friends and family, who are the poets, the doulas, the bosses, the in-laws, the doctors, the moms, the activists, the teachers, the seekers, the children, the motivators, the fighters of illnesses, the daughters, the entertainers, the lawyers, the artists, the board members, the progressive thinkers, and to the wise women everywhere. I am grateful to them all and the mark they leave on me. I think that might be the key to my fulfilling journey thus far, to remain constantly grateful. I am excited for the future and the celebration it will hold.

Review: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker + Giveaway

I had the opportunity to hear Jen Hatmaker at MOMCon – a MOPS convention – a couple years ago. Her speaking style is very similar to her writing style: Big, loud, “spicy,” Texan. She is a passionate speaker and has done amazing things to live out her beliefs. Her honesty, humor, and down-to-earth tone has created an enormous following of white, middle class, Christian moms. In other words, she is speaking to my demographic. While I’ve never envisioned us as BFFs, I appreciate Hatmaker’s voice to my peers: Love God, Love Others.

_140_245_Book.1649.coverIn her newest book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, Jen Hatmaker combines her usual wit and conviction in a series of essays about life as a mom, Christian, and minister.

I’ll admit, I went into this book a bit skeptical. Her previous books have been built on short chapters and I just wasn’t sure I was ready for another blog-like series of essays. I was pleasantly surprised. Hatmaker’s signature wit was certainly present (and there were plenty of fluff chapters to keep the reader chuckling) but she also added a certain depth that I wasn’t expecting. The chapters on Christian culture, on raising kids, and on building grace for our communities were insightful and honest. In fact, I wish there were more of those. She was able to combine her own life experience into a broader story and had some necessary things to say about our expectations for the generation of kids we’re raising.

Hatmaker knows her audience and writes for them. This is not a universal book – it is written for women who enjoy a certain lifestyle (kids, gourmet food, wine). Perhaps it’s because I fit into this group, but I didn’t find it off-putting. I appreciate that Hatmaker knows who will read her book and writes for them. Her most powerful essays are effective because of this – she is speaking directly to her readers.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was encouraging and thoughtful. I caught glimpses of where Hatmaker could go as a writer and am hoping to see even more depth in her future books.

I am amazed at the number of women who want to be Jen’s best friend. Have you ever read an author with whom you instantly connect?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of For the Love. Leave a comment telling me whether you are drawn to humor or inspirational books and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, August 28, 2015. (United States addresses only.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Celebrating Strong Women: Becoming a Turtle

cropped-dsc042161This week’s Celebrating Strong Women contribution comes from Kinita Kadnar Schripsema, author of I Am Hagar: Forgotten No More. Kinita was born in Pune, India; grew up in Ontario, Canada; and currently resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is devoted to her husband, Ken, and their four children. As God writes her story, she writes about her journey with Him in an inspirational blog kinitaschripsema.com. This post is an excerpt from I Am Hagar, which released earlier this month and is used with permission.

Becoming a Turtle: Transformation takes Surrender

Several years ago, I heard some fascinating and intriguing family stories that really got me thinking. Since some of the stories might bring disappointment and sadness to some family members who might be reading this, I will choose not to share them. Suffice it to say that through some of those stories I came to understand that I come from a very long line of dangerously strong women.

As I got closer to my fortieth birthday, I discovered that a turtle represented a “strong woman” in the Native American culture (of which I am not, for those who don’t know that).

Right away, I knew what I wanted for my fortieth birthday. a tattoo of a turtle. Now that you’ve recovered from the shock that Kinita has a tattoo, like most tattoos, this one has great significance. It is a turtle with its head cocked up set at the foot of a cross. You see, God and I had a little chat and through reading Scriptures and godly counsel, it became clear that I would have to surrender some things in my life. Sounded doable. I also learned that I would need a more concrete reinforcement, thus the tattoo. Little did I know what was going to happen over the course of the next few years.

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That was a busy year. That year I learned a lot of things, sometimes simultaneously. I learned that I had a toxic strength that only a loving God would accept me with. Eventually, he would use his gentle and holy strength to mold me and shape my strengths so they would be more useful to him. After reading a book called The High Cost of High Control by Dr. Tim Kimmel, which led to another (secular) book called Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., the second book gave me a task to take a strengths test. On the computer, I would be required to answer several questions that would eventually “diagnose” my strengths and give me the results of my top five. For not being a lover of tests, this one was great. I walked away with a “diagnosis” that would look like this: Connectedness, Responsibility, Activator, Belief, and Winning-Others-Over (in short CRAB-WOO).

Just by themselves, they are a great list of strengths that help me develop in confidence, not only in ministry but also in parenting and my marriage as well. When I stopped and took a deeper look at each of them, it became quite clear that a couple of those strengths really required some tempering. In the Christian life, as we grow to become God-glorifying believers, Scripture teaches us to be “weak,” to make less of ourselves so God can become more in and through us. There are thirty-three verses that help us unpack “weakness” in the Bible. Strengths are good for us to have. But they also have a hidden side that could cause us to develop a hard heart, or grow a belief that “we don’t need others, we are strong enough by ourselves.” I’ve learned (through several situations-gone-bad) that the best results come when we can acknowledge our weaknesses in the midst of those strengths.

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Over time, it became very clear that I was having trouble managing my Responsibility and Activator strengths. Responsibility was the strength, but had the potential of presenting as Control. Activator was a strength that was going to take a little more work to subdue. To not activate in a situation would require me to grow self-control (which happens to be a fruit of the Spirit). I learned that with surrendering Responsibility to the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit, he would give me responsibilities of his choosing. By surrendering my Activator strength in the same way, it would allow God to grow self-control and patience in my life. Both of which are fruit of the Spirit that I needed in my life. (I just didn’t know it.)

Let me give you an example of how that played out in my life. My firstborn broke me in by way of his stubborn, strong-willed, defiant, disobedient, and hard heart. However, I think I did what any good mother would do. I took my responsibility seriously. So seriously that the lines between what was important to discipline and what wasn’t were quite blurry as he approached his teen years. As God addressed my strength of responsibility, he made it very clear that I was to surrender my son, just like Abraham brought his son, Isaac, before the Lord and laid him on the altar. No I didn’t build an altar made with wood, and I didn’t hold a knife over him. (However, sadly, some of the words I said over him might have looked like knives, they were so sharp.) I came to an understanding that even though I was being a responsible parent in most things, the job of my son’s heart was in God’s hands.

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So I closed my eyes and stretched out my empty hands before the Lord. I imagined that I was standing before the cross, as I sat in my living room. I envisioned my son lying across my hands as I lifted him up in surrender to God. That day I chose to let God be God in my son’s life and I would go back to being his mother.

An Activator is a person, who lives life with the following question at the forefront of his or her mind: “When can we start?” Over the years I have been known to be impatient for action (my husband need not respond to this). Okay, so sometimes I still am but right now, you are the one wondering when I’m going to make my point, right? Just saying.

In the book Now, Discover Your Strengths the authors put it very clearly for us Activators, by saying, “Action and thinking are not your opposites. Action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can’t.”

The next part of their explanation conflicts with my faith and belief in a sovereign God, but I’ll share it anyway, so you can perhaps hear why. The authors go on to say, “You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.”

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If I were to write that portion of the definition from a faith perspective, it might sound something like this: “You must wait on the Lord, allowing him to show you the next step. Stay in prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind while you wait. You know you’ll be judged by what you say and also by what you think. You don’t want people just to see what you get done. It frightens you to live a life that doesn’t please God.”

God has been gracious and very faithful in my life, every step of the way. I am nothing without him and I mean everything to him. Every door has been opened and closed by him. If I’m really honest, not every request has made it to the pages of my journal. Some have remained in my heart. Sometimes wondering if the request was really worth praying for or worth God’s time. Yet my Sovereign God remained faithful and time and time again answered those prayers as well. However, almost always not in the way I was expecting, but in the way I needed.

For the last several weeks, I have started to feel like that turtle.  Humbled and blessed. But I know God isn’t finished with me yet. I’m just celebrating his goodness. I’m okay with that. If I get too far ahead of myself, then this Activator is going to get a serious time-out!

How do your strengths and weaknesses impact your journey of surrender? How and when have you seen your strength become a weakness?

Review: Fifty Shades of They by Ed Young + Giveaway

A few years ago, Frank’s family rented a house in Lancaster County for Thanksgiving. Apparently, this region of Pennsylvania is not only known for its Amish residents but also is the home of the smorgasbord. I have never been a huge fan of the buffet-style meal. I quickly become overwhelmed and end up getting just as much, if not less than what I would have if I had ordered an item off the menu. I’m more of a planned courses eater, with everything flowing naturally. Frank, on the other hand, loves a full buffet and all of its options. He knows how to pace himself and how to group foods by course so that he can enjoy the French toast, crepe bar, sushi, and steak all at the same meal. We don’t often eat at buffets, but when we do, Frank has learned to walk me through the experience so that I don’t miss anything.

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In his newest book, Fifty Shades of They, Ed Young asks what kind of “they” is in your life. Is your community one that is uplifting and helps you along the journey or is it one that is harmful? Young works his way through fifty different scenarios and ideas, giving advice and reminding the reader to find community with like-minded, encouraging people.

While I appreciate the need for a deep community based on shared beliefs and experiences, the idea of grouping the world into the “right they” and the “wrong they” made me very uncomfortable. He does spend one chapter talking about the need for Christians to not just surround themselves with other Christians, but this was more in a conversion context rather than a relational context. Often we learn from and grow with people who may not look like the “right they.”

The style of this book is much like a buffet. Each chapter is 2-3 pages – a “sushi sized” bite – and gives a bit of advice about all sorts of relationships, from friendships to marriage. In some ways, I appreciated this format. Young is able to cover a lot of ground without needing to go too deep. Overall, though, I vacillated between feeling confused by a generalization that wasn’t explained and wanting to know more and for Young to expand on his ideas.

I feel like this book was a good starting place, but would have been much stronger if Young had chosen a few main ideas and written longer, more in depth chapters about those ideas. Because I’m not familiar with Young’s past work, I finished the book feeling like I had some generalizations about him and his beliefs, but nothing meaty.

Overall, if you’re looking for a discussion starter, this may be a good book for you. Reading it on my own left me wanting more.

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of Fifty Shades of They. Even though it didn’t resonate with me, if you’ve heard about it and are interested in reading it, I’d love to send you my copy. Leave a comment and  I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, August 21, 2015. (United States addresses only.)

I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.