Monday, March 28, 2016

Confessions of a Recovering People Pleaser

I have struggled for a long time with being a people pleaser. In recent years I have acknowledged this tendency and have tried to care less about what others might think of me.

As a Christ-follower I am loved and accepted unconditionally by God. I do not have to think, speak or perform a certain way to receive love and grace and favor. God loves me as much know as he ever has and ever will. He delights in me and continues to pursue my heart. He knows the depth and breadth of my potential and seeks to help me reach it. He is always for me, always with me, always on my side. What have I done to deserve such lavish love? Nothing. He offers it to me for free through Jesus simply because I am his creation. Who could want or need more than that?

But do I often live as this cherished beloved? No. Often I have striven to achieve the favor and acceptance of my fellow human. It's not hard to see why. People are everywhere, more than ready to offer their thoughts and judgments, reigning favor on whomever pleases them at that moment. It reminds me of the children's story, You Are Special, by Max Lucado. I have read it quite a few times to my daughter and have choked up on more than one occasion at the reminder that I am God's and it doesn't matter what other people think or say about me, what matters - and what is true - is what God says about me.

I just finished Sheila Walsh's book The Longing in Me: How Everything You Crave Leads to the Heart of God. At the end of the first chapter she invited the reader to write the following phrase on a card and stick it somewhere where it can be seen daily in order to become imbedded into the heart:
The God who created me has chosen me as His beautifully loved daughter. Because of that I can take other rejections in stride.
I so desperately want to live that phrase. I want my heart and actions to be focused on living as I have been created, knowing that I will be criticized but that God is always for me and will be my defense and my redeemer.

I recently reviewed my past and remembered some specific instances when I acted in a certain way in order to seek the favor of people even though I didn't necessarily agree or feel confident about it. No one specifically said that they would be disappointed or I would be rejected, but at the moment of decision I felt that choosing wrong would lead to rejection and, at the time, I cared more about acceptance than being true to myself. Perhaps reminding myself of these will help me to be true to myself in the future. Though, true to his nature, God has brought good from many of these experiences.

In the middle of seventh grade I moved to a new state and started in a new middle school (the worst). Someone asked me if I liked 501 jeans. I did not care much about clothing brands then (or now, really) so I assumed it was the cool brand. I said "yes" and then the person said, "That means you like (some boy in the class)." The person then teased me about liking someone I didn't even know. In retrospect, there probably wasn't a right answer to the question that would have spared me being teased. (I realized while writing this that I did start trying to dress more like who I thought were the cool kids over the next few years in hopes of fitting in more.)

In eighth grade homeroom one of the girls called me "Beast" one day when she realized that I had not yet started shaving my legs (I have blond hair so it's not really noticeable). That afternoon I went home and asked my mom to show me how to shave my legs. It wasn't really necessary but I didn't want to experience that rejection and ridicule again if I could help it. I bet it was just a one-time comment that she never thought about again but obviously it affected me as I still remember it 20 years later. I hope these experiences as "the new girl" have helped me to be more compassionate toward other newcomers I meet.

In high school a girl asked me if I believed in God. I did (I had not yet made a profession of faith) but I wasn't sure what she thought about faith and didn't want to be rejected so I said that I wasn't sure. Who knows what would have happened if I had been honest? Perhaps she would have asked me more about God. I doubt she would have shunned me but I still didn't feel completely accepted in my new school. (Feeling bad about not standing up for my belief in God ended up being a catalyst in seeking to learn more about God to determine what I really did believe which led to baptism.)

When I was applying to college I wasn't really sure what I wanted to study. My parents thought I should go into engineering since I was good at math and science and it was a field looking for more women. I moved forward in that major since I wanted to please my parents and didn't have anything strong in mind. In this case, I think it was beneficial to me. It wasn't going against any actual beliefs or thoughts. It may have helped my admissions acceptance having the label of "female engineering student". I eventually discovered that I much preferred psychology and it only required an extra semester of school (and more math and science classes completed than required for my official major, perhaps a negative of not going in undeclared). I also met my future husband in one of my engineering classes my last semester in that major (definitely a major benefit!).

I'm sure there are many more instances when I sought to please others rather than be honest in who I was or what I thought. I'm sure many of you can think of your own experiences. If you are brave enough to share, I'd love to hear them and be reminded that I'm not alone.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

That Time I Applied for Jen Hatmaker's Book Launch Team

One year ago today I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw a link to an application to apply for a spot on a book launch team to read and promote Jen Hatmaker's new book coming out in the fall. I was in the process of reading Interrupted with a small group of women and was enjoying her candid and conversational writing style as well as her message. I had also read a couple of her viral blog posts I heard about on the Today Show and liked them so I thought, why not? I saw that there were only 500 spots and I knew she had a ton of followers so I thought my chances were small. Still, I figure you can't win if you don't apply. So I did.
Then I heard that five thousand(!) people had applied for the five hundred spots and calculated my odds (better than the lottery, right?). I didn't really think much more about it until I received an email on March 10th that started out, Knock, knock. Who's there? YOU, because YOU are on my Launch Team for 'For the Love'!!

I was thrilled! I texted my friend who I knew had also applied to see if she had received the email. Unfortunately she hadn't and it dampened my enthusiasm as I didn't want to feel like I was rubbing it in her face (it's a struggle to be happy about an experience when you know someone else might not be). I joined the Facebook page for the launch team and that's when the craziness began.

Everyone was so thrilled to be in it and sharing their information to see if they knew anyone else or lived close to another Launch Team Member. I found out there were a few other people in Georgia, a few in Atlanta and a few OTP. I didn't meet any of them until September (we'll get there).

As I'm an introvert who doesn't generally post a ton about life online (yet I have a blog, I know) I spent most of my time reading the posts but not contributing. People soon began sharing prayer requests and life events with the group and everything was met with love and grace and kindness. It is the most positive part of the internet I've ever experienced! I know that if I ever need some encouragement or support I could head there.

We all received electronic copies of the book, followed by an unedited paperback a few weeks later, to begin reading it so that we could post reviews and talk about it in our various social groups. I found that part to be pretty easy because I enjoyed the book so much.

Apparently most everyone else did as well. The creative members started making graphics to promote the book. Then it branched into coffee mugs and tshirts. I can't remember all of the neat things that were made as a result of this book. I got a little into the creative aspect and replicated someone else's idea of putting a quote on canvas. I made two, one for each of my kids' rooms.

Very early in the group's existence someone suggested we have a Launch Team Party at Jen Hatmaker's house after the book came out. Everyone loved the idea though many considered it a ridiculously impossible one. But the impossible can happen. Jen actually agreed to the idea (with the stipulation that she didn't have to do anything but show up) and a group of women volunteered to take on the task of making the party a reality. Yet another amazing surprise! 

When I learned the date of the party I was both excited and apprehensive. The idea of getting to meet Jen and a bunch of the ladies I had been praying for and learning about seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event. But, of course, it was also a huge party filled with strangers (not my favorite) and the pesky detail of paying for flights, hotel and rental car. I waffled a bit until my husband said I should go for it. And I did. I ended up making a short trip, long enough for the party, a little exploring of Austin/Buda, and a visit to ANC (the Hatmakers' church I became familiar with through Interrupted). 
Made it to Texas!
Waiting on the shuttles to take us to the party
Anyone else watch My Big Family Renovation on HGTV? Just me? Okay.
Wish I could recall our conversation.
Obligatory photo op (she was so gracious to talk to each of us!)
One of the cool things about the group is that there are so many women with passion to help with various social justice issues and causes and using their talents to support them. The shirts and coffee mugs had the profits donated to organizations such as Help One Now. Some make cuffs, jewelry and other goods and donate some proceeds to charities. When the party was announced there were women who wanted to go but could not financially afford it and the group created a scholarship program to get everyone there - and we all banded together and gave money to make sure everyone did! The group has raised money to buy a high school senior a car, supported adoption fundraisers, replaced a blogger's laptop, started writing groups and helped launch other books (I did a few others, though none of the experiences equaled this one).

I am so encouraged and inspired with how passionate everyone is and how so many people are doing what they can to make the world a better place for someone! I feel like they are all out of my league. But we all have different life seasons and different passions and I can cheer all of these ladies on as I focus on raising my kids with service and giving when I can (and remembering the widow's mite story that it's not really what we give, it's our heart behind the giving). 

I am so amazed at everything that has come out of one little book launch group. It's also cool that many of the people not selected dubbed themselves #the4500 and are also doing many great things such as launching ministries together! I anticipate much more greatness to come from these two groups of people. And it's great having somewhere on the internet to go where I will always be greeted with kindness and acceptance. 

If you haven't read For the Love yet, I still highly recommend it. If you have, let me know what you thought of it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

February Book Review

The second month has ended and so it's time to discuss the books I completed this month. Not nearly as many as last month but that's okay. I have no idea how I finished so many in January - probably neglected responsibilities like cleaning and laundry.

1. Eve: A Novel by Wm. Paul Young

I had read The Shack years ago when it came out and thoroughly enjoyed it. I like seeing various perspectives on how people understand God. I thought it would be fun to read his new one since it is obviously a fictional account related to the Eve of the Bible. It seemed like it would fit into a science-fiction category and it took me a bit to feel like I had a grasp on the world being described.

The story is about a young girl who is found barely alive in a shipping container. It appears the container ends up in some other dimension and time and the people there work to resuscitate and heal her. She cannot remember who she is or where she is from and keeps having lucid dreams that she is witnessing Creation with Eve. It sounds weird and the story kind of jumps around some but it did describe Eden and the fall in an interesting way. I was kept guessing about what would happen and who was trustworthy throughout the story. I found it very engaging.

2. Balancing It All: My Struggle of Balancing Priorities and Purpose by Candace Cameron Bure and Dana Wilkerson

I watched Full House growing up and thought this might be an interesting read. In it Candace talks about growing up in her family and on the hit show. She talks about how she met her hockey-player husband and the challenge of deferring her career dreams so that he could pursue his along with everything that comes with having and raising a family. She talks about not growing up a Christian but still with Christian-like morals and her journey to accepting Jesus and trying to become the wife, mother and woman she felt she was called to be. I appreciate her candidness and honesty about not always getting things right. I know she's not perfect and I didn't necessarily agree with all that she said but I enjoyed learning more about her and what she's learned. It also makes me want to watch Fuller House but we don't have Netflix. [I did get to watch the first episode and enjoyed all of the nostalgia from the original show.]

3. Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue

I hadn't heard anything about this book until my husband gifted it to me for Valentine's Day [books are kind of my love language (actually it's words of affirmation but books contain lots of words)]. I read the back and, as I dove into it, was hopeful that it would end positively. The book is from the perspective of a five-year-old by named Jack who lives in Room with his Ma. We learn that his mother was kidnapped as a teenager and has spent nearly eight years imprisoned in this room by her captor. From Jack's perspective we see how his mother has tried to protect him from understanding the truth of their situation while also giving him as full and normal a life as possible. 

I struggled with this book from the beginning being a mother of both a daughter and a son. I desperately wished that Jack would stay safe and they would both somehow make it out of the room. I felt like I had to keep going despite the sad circumstances just to see if there was light at the end of the tunnel. I felt that using Jack's perspective helped the book not to be so dark and depressing. A very interesting read.

Did you read anything worth recommending in February? As always, I love to hear about what others have enjoyed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Second Month Goal Review

We've completed another month of 2016! I started out the year strong. How did I do in February? Let's review my goals and find out!

1. One arts and crafts time per month with the kiddos

Since it's February, I knew we could do something Valentine's themed (as long as I could get everything organized and together before the second Sunday of the month. My daughter's class was passing out valentine's and she had decided that she wanted to make her own so that made the decision of what to do quite easy. We gathered up supplies and she got to work.

Meanwhile, we needed something fun for my son to do. He likes stamps and stickers so I thought he could make his own valentines with those supplies. He also wanted scissors since his sister had them so I obliged.

My daughter enjoyed personalizing each valentine for her classmates. Some had stickers. Some received stamps. She drew special designs and wrote specific phrases for others. She seemed to have a blast and was proud of her completed projects. 

One of her completed valentines
My son's valentine was quite colorful
I decided to also attempt a Valentine's craft to make our home a little more festive. Our house has decorations for Sept-Dec but the rest of the year it's fairly plain. I think it turned out lovely.

2. Blog at least twice per month

I am trying not to use my monthly reviews as counting toward my twice per month goal or it would be too easy. After posting my January reviews I was struggling with something to say. Thankfully the holiday gave me something to write about and helped restart my brain's idea center. I ended up with three non-review posts for February! My latest one was reaaaalllllly long and I was a little concerned that people wouldn't want to read so much. But I reminded myself that God will do what he wants with my posts and I'm just to trust him with my story.

3. Grow in gratitude, contentment and generosity

This month I participated in a mug swap with a Facebook group. It was fun trying to find fun things to send to an unknown woman that she'd enjoy. Last year I would have been more concerned with spending money on someone I didn't know but I focused on it being an opportunity to show love to another person. Each participant also donated money to one of the group member's adoption fund. Of course, it wasn't completely unselfish because I did receive my own package from a thoughtful woman. Steps, right?

Jen Hatmaker had a "Share the Love" event where people could register themselves or someone else to receive a free copy of her latest book, For the Love. After the registration period, other people could pay for one or more copies of the book to be shipped to one of the registered people. I chose to send out a book. The exciting part is that 2250 books were sent out - one to everyone who signed up for one!

This month was also the first children's consignment sale of the season. I thought one way to grow in generosity was to use any money made from selling our old clothes, toys and books to bless others however the Lord leads. Ten percent will be given to our church and the other ninety will be used for opportunities the Lord provides. I struggle off and on with spending money because I don't earn any as a SAHM. I try to focus some on saving money but that seems different than bringing it in. With this little bit of extra, I hope that I will feel freer to give.

I worked on memorizing two more scripture verses this month. They are below.

Matthew 11:28-30 - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Psalm 68:19 - Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

I am continuing to try to avoid impulse purchases for myself. I know I really don't need anything so if I can focus on enjoying and appreciating what I do have, that will be progress. My mother-in-law decided to get rid of one thing from her closet each day for Lent (I assume clothing closet) and I think that's something I could do as well. I haven't started but removing forty things would definitely be a bit of a challenge and an opportunity to be grateful for and content with what I already have. I'll report back next month and let you know if I did this.

How are you doing on your goals for this year or month? Are you participating in Lent? If so, are you giving something up or did you add something?