Thursday, May 19, 2016

thoughts on (dun, dun, DUUUN)...30!

I turned 30 this past March.

I remember thinking on the last few birthdays...Oh no! 26?! That means I'll be 30 soon. 28! Two more years and I'll be 30! And then, 29!! And I was so sad. And partly it might have been because it just came and went on your regular Wednesday with a full routine of going to work, getting the kids picked up and fed, nothing special. On my 29th, birthday celebrations included my daughter getting a little bug and throwing up all over me right before we were going to attempt somewhat of a birthday dinner with our little family of four. But mostly, I was sad because it was my last year in my 20's.

I thought that once I would have to tell people I was 30, they wouldn't view me as young anymore and I would just seem kinda average.

As I approached 30 this year and started to talk to different people, friends, co-workers, about my upcoming BIG birthday (to me and me only!), I started hearing something very different then what I'd always just assumed about 30's...or just really anything past your 20's. They were telling me it was some of the best years, the decade they've loved the most so far, the year I shouldn't be afraid of but the one to embrace. "Why?" I asked, honestly very intrigued and confused about their responses.

Because I was more settled, they said. Because I spent my 20's finding myself and then I got to spend my 30's enjoying life as myself, they said. Because, I was much wiser.....

So, being the processor that I am, I began to think more on their words. And after much thought, I realized I did in fact believe the same would be true and that maybe what I was really afraid of losing was life and youth in terms of physical beauty and perhaps the level of vigor and energy I have in life.

In my 20's, I have many wonderful memories of staying out late, parties and lunch dates and constantly going from one thing to the next.  In my 20's, I have plenty of pictures of tanner me (for me people, tanner for me), thinner me with flawless skin hanging out with all my many friends on my various road trips and adventures and late night parties. I was blessed with many wonderful opportunities in my 20's that I wouldn't take back in a heartbeat. I'm kinda obsessed with pictures so I dug up some that represent my fave people and moments and memories.

In my 20's, I also had plenty of insecurity, searching, striving, comparing, shallow relationships (on my part) and graceless moments...make that graceless years.

So what does a more settled, wiser, true-to-me life look in my 30's? Well, I'm just getting started but I hope that it looks like embracing the wrinkles appearing in the corner of my eyes and the chubbier cheeks I carry post-babies and the messy hair that came from laying on the couch while cuddling and taking silly pics with my babies as we make up songs together.

I hope it looks like slow evenings spent with friends in my imperfect and normal home, eating and discussing the things we're loving about life, the things that we want to do with our lives, the things that make us better people.

I hope that it includes embracing the stretch marks and never-flat-again stomach and striving to be healthy because I have a family that I need to be strong and available for, not because I need to be the same size that I was in high school.

I hope it includes a version of me that fights through the hard moments in relationships because I believe that everyone's worth fighting for and because I understand that love is different than my expectations and so I respond with grace and a willingness to keep at it.

I hope my 30's displays a braver me. I pray that the things I have learned through the trials of my 20's are not lost but things I remember so that I can press on, strive to live differently and land at a place in life where I'm more freely me.

Here's to a future blogpost I can write full of new pictures that show messy and meaningful moments of a life that demonstrates the value of progress, not perfection, thoughts on failed but grace-filled moments instead of regrets from never even trying and reflections of a heart that understands worth is about who I am, not what I do or accomplish. Here's a few to get started... :)

Have you struggled to to embrace a new age or decade or have you found it easy to celebrate? Is there a change you've experienced that you're loving? I wanna know! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Look for the Few

Two months ago I had the opportunity to travel with a group of ladies, all connected to ministry somehow whether they're a pastor's wife or work in ministry themselves. We flew to Zacapa, Guatemala where every single one of us was impacted by two things: humidity and the faces of the beautiful mothers and babies we met while there. One is hugely unimportant but does gives some background on the crazy hair and sweaty smiles you'll see in the pictures below. The others, well they're something that I believe none of us will be able to forget, in the best way possible. 

I've been blessed with the opportunity to go on several missions trips before but honestly, they have often left me overwhelmed with the need before my eyes, to the point where I don't want to look back at it again. I'm a doer. I'm a feeler. Both good things that I like about who I am but, when I get to the place where I feel so strongly, pain, need, hunger, whatever it may be, and also feel like I can't do anything, at least anything that would make a difference, I regrettably shut down.

This trip, God had a special message for me though. It's actually the same message that I've needed in my own personal life, not just for this trip. And yet, I love that God took me to a beautiful country with beautiful women to love on the most beautiful children and the simple message I started to hear and understand in Guatemala could translate into every corner of my heart, mind and life. He knows I love to connect the dots and so He connected some dots for me. 

Back to the message though! :) I jotted these notes into my phone one day while we heard from the founder of the ministry we were visiting, Carlos Vargas at Hope of Life Ministries. In a place where poverty is rampant he has built a ministry on the practical Gospel; meeting tangible needs to show God's love. You cannot point a life to Jesus if there is no life to save and so, Carlos started Baby Rescue which is the central part of Hope of Life Ministries. As we asked Carlos how he continued on with ministry when there was so much need around him, his response rocked me. It was the answer to my own ongoing struggle in my ministry at home. 

"Don't look at people as groups, look at the individual

Do for one

You'll get overwhelmed by the many. Instead, look for the few." 

Boom! Throat-chop! I have let myself off the hook so many times with the excuse that whatever I felt I should do, probably wasn't gonna do much in the end. It probably help enough people. It wouldn't fix the problem for enough people so, I guess, why bother? 

Wrong question, wrong response. 

During Jesus' ministry, by supernatural power, He did a lot to help the masses. But, BUT... there were many more times that He focused on saving just one, spending time with just one, impacting just one.  I believe that to follow Him we must find ways to do the same. Far and near, in Guatemala and in Tucson, for the global church and for my own church. 

So here's the deal. I decided to jump in and do something that will help one and you can join and help too if you'd like. I've made a goal to raise $1,200, the cost to rescue one baby. I am partnering with Leading and Loving It and World Help, with whom I traveled and have until November 30th, 2015. You can make a donation with the link below or if you are local (live in Tucson with me!) I am going to be creating some specific fun opportunities that will help raise funds so feel free to comment below if you'd like a heads up as those opportunities take place. 

More than anything, I want to encourage you to not get stuck! Don't back down from the thing that's been placed in your heart, just because you think it might only help one, or none even! I fully believe that the thing in your heart came from the One who created you, who created the heart and soul that's feeling that strong urge to do something and that He will empower you to get it done. So, go help that one. :) 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Halloween Candy Limits...It's Not What You Think

Ok, all those of us who are parents, let's take a moment to be real. Our children's Halloween candy is not their own. Amiriiiight?

I had so much fun this year helping Cam get dressed up (as Spooky Mickey....even though there was nothing spooky about him. What the heck is Spooky Mickey supposed to look like? Oh, to have a peek into the mind of a 3 year old sometimes....) and it was also a lot of fun taking him around to a few houses. This is totally off topic but Trick-or-Treating is completely confusing to small children who are being taught stranger danger and boundaries. Our challenge for the night was helping him understand, 'we're walking up to all these people houses but no, you can't actually go in. They don't want you to go in, they just want to give you candy and for you to leave. And by the way, on any other night, never walk up to someone's house and ask for anything because that's weird.' Back to the real subject though, candy. The experience was a lot of fun but I was pretty glad that for all my efforts, at the end of the night, I was also being rewarded with a big plastic pumpkin of my child's candy to pilfer through. Homeboy doesn't even know about the glory and goodness of Airheads because mama got to them first.

As I've been occasionally rummaging though Cam's candy, I've had a few memories of my own childhood Halloween experiences pop into my mind. They're mostly good memories, like the time it was snowing in Ohio and my brother Chris fell and spilled all his candy in the snow and then I had to share all of mine with him...which was NOT good for my selfish, 7 year old self. Or in 7th grade, I went with a group of my best girlfriends and I was Cruella, with all my dalmatians. I even baby-powdered one whole side of my head to rock the classic black&white Cru do! There was one thing that came up though that made me sad to think about but also reminded me of the beauty of age and maturity, growth and grace.

I think I was in 4th or 5th grade when this incident took place. I can't point to a specific moment that caused me to think this way, but at this young age I was already very aware that I was chubby and therefore, not pretty like the rest of my little elementary girl friends. Maybe it was because my dad was a youth pastor and I hung around the older girls a lot and took in all the things they probably said about themselves and each other. There's a part of me that thinks nothing would have ever be said to a female about her appearance or worth and yet she will innately feel and know (the lie) that she isn't enough.

And that was me. I wasn't even ten and already deeply trapped in the hole of image management. So, on this particular Halloween I remember telling myself that the reason I was so much chubbier,  so much fatter than my friends was because I ate all my Halloween candy and I ate it too fast. I decided to hide away about ten pieces in a little treasure box I had. I stuck a note with it, mapping out how many pieces I should still have left by Christmas, then by New Years (cause they're so far apart, ya know...:)) and lastly by my birthday in March. I think in my mind, if I could have self-control in this, then maybe there was hope for me to one day be a skinny girl too.

But I failed. I would go and find my box, eat a few pieces and think, '...well just don't eat anymore till you're next deadline. It will be okay as long as you still have this many pieces left by your birthday. I mean, even if you just have one piece leftover by your birthday, it's still better than being the fat girl who ate it all at once. You had control, you saved one piece.'

I didn't make it. And I felt so ashamed. And no one else even knew! This was a standard I was setting, failing and then heaping shame onto my precious, normal and chubby pre-pubescent, 10-year old self. No one was doing this too me, no one was setting the bar to high for me. Me, myself and I set that bar too high and thus began a life-long struggle. I struggle to give others grace and before that, I struggle to give myself grace. As hard as I can be on others, I'm ten times harder on myself which is why I've always justified my standards for others. But, it's no way to live. It's exhausting to always be striving and always be let down and letting down.

I've been on an amazing journey in the past year and a half discovering and understanding grace, the beautiful gift of grace that God regularly gives me. I'm experiencing freedom I've never known as I learn to extend grace to myself and others. One of my biggest struggles in life has been chasing perfection in my appearance, basing my worth and beauty on the size of my jeans or my pimple-free face. It's a struggle that started when I was very young and one that I'm guessing will stick around through the rest of my life. And yet, grace is setting me free. Grace is telling me I'm enough, size 2 or 12. (And, for the record, I've never been a size just looked looked better typed out with a repeating number. :)) Grace is releasing me from the burden of chasing after beauty defined by the world's standards, by Hollywood's standards, by my weird Halloween-candy-limit-standards and helping me to live and breathe easy, in the beautiful skin God gave me.

Like I said, I think this will be something I battle throughout my life, a journey I will always be on. One week I might feel guilty for not working out, but the next week I do what I can and let the guilt go...and that's progress. That's grace in me. Another month, I drink only water and feel great...and another month my beverages are less than clear and sugar-free and that's still great. One year, I hide my Halloween candy and binge in shame...then another year comes, and I eat that candy and enjoy Halloween with my son and know...either way, I'm enough.


P.S This passage was a huge encouragement to me that helped in transforming my view of myself; to see and understand that God made me unique and beautiful in His sight. Read Psalm 139 from The Message version here

LAST THING, I promise...I'm a singer. Songs speak to me in such a powerful way! I have been LOVING this new song by Colbie Caillat. This is the message I want to believe and live, what I want mothers, grandmothers, sisters, friends to know, how I want my daughter to see herself...beautiful, without even trying! Turn it up loud and remind yourself of this message!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

why i cry

I have this thing I've been battling since I was 17 (which is when my parent's divorced buuut, that's a story for another rainy day....which will be a long time from now because it's Tucson :). It was never a problem before then, which I don't actually think is normal now that I'm older, and hopefully, wiser. So here's my 'thing': I cry. A lot. 

If you're my family or one of my close friends or a co-worker, I'm okay with the fact that it happens and so often. It's just a part of who I am. However, if you're not someone I know or know well, I get terribly embarrassed and sometimes, even really ashamed over this.

Here's a perfect example. I'm on staff at my church (Casas Church) as the Creative Worship Director and I regularly lead worship for our Sunday services. Which also means I regularly cry, in front of lots and lots of people...while projected on a big screen....on two big screens actually....and then sometimes when a particular service later goes on the internet, my crying episode goes with it to live on and on, forever and ever, but no Amen. One recent Sunday, after said crying on-stage, I was shaming away in my head and thinking about how the experience really is the equivalent to that one dream everyone has about somehow,  ending up naked in the middle of the basketball court at their high school pep rally. Or, wait. Maybe that's not a dream everyone has and I'm just thinking about Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On. Regardless, crying on stage is my real-life version of that dream. I get trapped in a moment of,

 'This CANNOT be happening right now. 

I can't catch my breath between singing and crying. So, great. Now I'm ugly-cry-gasp-breathing. 

WHILE I'm in the spotlight. Oh, AND I have black streaks RUNNING DOWN MY FACE, PROJECTED ON A GIANT SCREEN. WHY haven't I bought waterproof mascara YET? 

How do I make this stop? If I just walk off, it won't be a big deal right?' 

Most of my crying moments are pretty normal for those of us that are just known as being criers. Ya know, sobbing into the first 3 minutes of P.S. I Love You, crying at the commercials with sad and sick animals even though I don't even like cats. Speaking of cats, once there was a commercial about this couple that got engaged but with the help of her family cat bringing in the ring and it was actually some sort of cat food commercial, which is all really weird. But it was sweet and heart-warming and involved loved so obviously, I cried. Movies where someone is bullied or even reality shows where they're really mean to people, which I get is just an act for ratings, really upsets me. And now that I'm a mom, anything remotely sad or touching, involving kids....done. It's over. Better just put me to bed cause I assure you, I'm crying like a baby. 

Some of my crying isn't normal and actually is a result of some deeply dysfunctional ways that I allowed myself to operate in, a long time ago once my parents divorced. With men in particular, I 'discuss' (also possibly know as argue) in a way that is loaded with sarcasm or turns highly emotional, with lots of tears (and a blotchy neck! GAH!) because it's hitting on a hurt from my past. So I'm working on it. I'm working on ways to control my tears in these instances because it's not a good and normal outlet of my tears and emotions and I want to live in ways that represent health and life and the truest me. 

Back to my on-stage crying. It's something altogether different when I'm crying up there. There are tears of joy and tears of sorrow when I'm up there. There are tears of healing and tears that represent my hopes and prayers for healing. There are tears of gratitude and sheer overhwleming love. ALL of those tears are because of God's love for me and because of what Jesus did for me. AND, for you too. 

Worship is a time where I come before God, with all my crap and with all the things I'm trying to do well for Him and know that I'm actually viewed as enough. 
           And because I've always struggled to feel like I'm enough and I'm remembering I am,  I cry. 

It's a moment where I come before Him and in spite of all that I've failed in or all the things I'm striving to achieve, I am simply loved. 
          And because a lot of my relationships in my life have failed to show me love and because each and every day He does, I cry. 

It's a time where I come before Him and I'm moved by all that He's done for me. Or, I'm being reminded of the things He will do, wants to do, can do in my life if I surrender to Him. 
          And because I've been challenged with a dark side in me that NEEDS to be in control but feels burdened by it all, then remembers He carries the weight of the world, not me...I cry. 

It's the place where I lift up prayers and pleas for Him to work in the lives of those around me, that different friends and family would come to know Him and find freedom from the things in their life that bring them so much hurt. 
           And because, in spite of how much I feel like I love them, I know that He loves them that much more and so, I cry. 

The songs I lead on that platform aren't just songs to me. They are prayers and promises of hope, love and life. They are words to declare and share about the God that has changed my life. They are words that describe a God who is near to me; my Father who hears me and offers love in a way that no one else ever can or will. That's why I cry. So, embarrassing as it is, I'm trying to be okay with those tears because I'm definitely okay with the God that they represent. And if someone sees a clearer picture of what He can do in a life, if they have a God-moment of seeing a different kind of love they've never experienced while seeing my tears, then that short, but-really-seems-like-forever moment of discomfort and vulnerability, is completely and absolutely worth it. 

Do you have a 'thing'? Something you would see as a weakness but that God might possibly be using to display His strength? I'd love to hear it! 
xo, BB