Today’s guest contributor is author Kennan Buckner. Check out her bio and the link to her book at the end of the post!
I grew up with limited access to the internet, back when you had to use dial-up. In junior high and high school, I wasn’t allowed to have a MySpace account, but I did share an email account with my Dad.
I am sure those messages were fascinating. What would a preteen have to say to friends she’d seen a few hours before at school?
When I was in college, friends introduced me to a relatively new thing called Facebook. My roommate Jessica and our friend Sarah showed me how to set up my profile, and off we were to the land of stalking fellow University of Mary Hardin-Baylor singles.
Social media became a part of my daily life, a sort of living journal and scrapbook. Then nine years later, in December 2016, I did something pretty radical for me. I limited my access to social media. I removed the apps from my phone. After having a baby, choosing to stay home, leaving a job I loved, and losing my circle of work friends, social media was not a healthy outlet.
I did something crazy. Not only did I take social media apps off my phone, but I had my husband Marcus block them from the Safari app (because I would look up their websites). So for a whole year, my one source for social media was on a desktop computer in our home office, which meant I had to plan to be on the internet. I had to plan to go to Facebook. It was ridiculously hard to post pictures of my son because I had to send them from my phone to my email on my computer and upload them! So much work!
But that year, God used the mental space to break unhealthy habits in me.
Social media led to a battle with a strong case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Comparison told me, “You are missing out on life” and “You are missing out on all these adventures.”
Being stuck at home was not my demise. The blessing of being at home with my son was my calling. When I finally embraced the space where I was physically present, I saw God. I was not missing out. The truth was God called me to a different place in my life in that season. Different from my former coworkers and many of my social media connections and friends. Constant social-media scrolling stirred in me a discontent with the place and space I was given to occupy. I needed to put my phone down.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah, known as the “weeping prophet,” was given a special message which finds its application in our everyday lives, too. In Jeremiah 2, he’s given the proclamation from the Lord to remind the Israelites, God’s chosen people, what they had with Him is what would truly satisfy them.
In biblical times, people often built their cities around rivers or lakes because water is necessary for survival. When a city would outgrow its water source, the people would make massive caverns to collect rainwater. Sounds smart, right? Spiritually, the Israelites had done the same thing. They decided their invisible God was too small. They traded authentic worship of YHWH as prescribed to them by Moses for the false gods of the people and cultures around them.
These false gods were like man-made cisterns. They looked good on the outside but had no real power to satisfy or hold water. In building their water wells, the Israelites forgot God. At its root, the fear of missing out occurs when we forget God.
Jeremiah 2:13 says, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
To forsake is to leave, desert, or neglect. Jeremiah says they forgot God, the source of Living Water, then replaced Him with cisterns unable to hold water.
Imagine their disappointment after a big rainstorm when they realized not one cistern was able to hold water. There were leaks and unseen problems below the surface. Now, there was no water and no provision for the future.
Did you know the only place you can be with God right now is in the present? While He is omnipresent, able to be everywhere simultaneously, we – as finite humans – are not. Friend, you can experience precious joy right here. Right where you are.
The fear of missing out says:
WHAT I AM DOING NOW…
WHO I AM WITH NOW…
WHERE I AM NOW…
IS NOT IMPORTANT.
And that’s exactly the mistake the Israelites made in their quest to satisfy a vertical need from horizontal sources. Because the people were not satisfied by the Living Water, they were not able to enjoy what God had graciously provided for them.
Jeremiah 2:7 says, “And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things…”
You do the same thing when you miss what’s right in front of you. Not enjoying what God has given to you is a failure to fulfill His purpose. Like the Israelites, He brings you to plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. When comparison blinds you or social media leads you to envy others’ possessions or experiences, you are not enjoying what He has given you!
Comparison leads to unfair assumptions. It lays your everyday mundane moments next to others’ highlight reels. Comparison tells you that if life were fair, things would be equal, or if you are honest, your situation would be a little better than someone else’s.
Much like space and time are limited to the present, you can only please God in the present. Right where you are, you can choose to enjoy the tasks He has given you, who you are with, and where you are. Right now, you can please God by enjoying what He has graciously provided.
This blog post is an excerpt from Kennan’s first book, Chin Up, about how putting down our phones can open our eyes and ready our feet to walk in God’s purpose. Available now on Amazon. Need community? Join the conversation on the Chin Up the Book Facebook group.
Kennan Buckner is a former editor of Katy Magazine turned stay-at-home mom and business owner. She holds a mass communication/journalism degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. She is an active member of the Mothers of Preschoolers group at FBC San Antonio. Kennan and her husband, Marcus, run Marken Media Co. and reside in Texas with their three children.
I made the decision to homeschool Maggie months ago. I know this doesn’t match the experience of most parents this year, during this odd pandemic. Most parents waited on pins and needles for schools to announce their plans, reacting to the alignment with CDC guidelines, or something like that. Not me. Maybe it’s because I am remarkably stubborn. Or maybe it’s because I have worked in higher education for 12 years and understand how the whole public education system works just enough to know that whether they say so or not, it’s going to be pandemonium, I opted to make my own plan with or without any announcements from the school system. I am so glad I did.
I wholeheartedly felt convinced God wanted me to do this. My daughter’s first grade experience left her lacking strong literacy skills even though she finished kindergarten ahead of her peers.
The good news is she’s a super smart kid; she’ll be fine. However, I knew she needed help to regain academic confidence and skill, not to mention a love for learning. This, coupled with the COVID pandemic and the weirdness it would inevitably bring to the realm of public education, weighed on me as a mom. Did I want to send her back to the classroom? Nope, although I honestly did not look forward to having her around the house while I tried to work on a daily basis either.
Do I look forward to homeschooling her? Yes and no. We’re two weeks into the school year. And I can still say… yes and no! No, I don’t look forward to trying to find time to clean the house, run errands, and manage my own business… all with my child underfoot. No, I don’t anticipate 100% sheer joy while trying to play mom and teacher to a child who already questions my decisions because she’s coming into her own very independent personality. And no, I don’t think it will be easy to practice great self-care or carve out time as a writer, much less a woman, while still distancing ourselves in the midst of a pandemic.
But the redemptive part is this: I asked God for this. When I quit working full-time over four years ago and started my business to spend more time with my daughter, I felt great sorrow. When I had worked full-time, I knew I had made a big difference in others’ lives. But I had done that at the expense of missing out on my daughter’s life. There were days when I’d come home and not had the chance to play with her while it was light outside. And I don’t mean like one day or so here and there. It was like that for months at a time–for seasons. Maybe that’s okay for some moms, for some parents. That was not okay for me. I could not live with myself that way. It wasn’t just the “mom guilt” we hear about. It was a spiritual conviction, a knowing in my soul that I was not aligned with what God would have me do.
It had nothing to do with what I wanted to do. It had everything to do with me choosing to do what was the best and right thing for my kid. As a follower of Christ, it was time to live like one.
Since then, I’d always hoped for an opportunity for redemption, to get back the years when I had not been with her. And here it was—a full year of mom and Maggie time.
Every time I find myself whining about how hard it might be, or how I’ll never get any work done during the day without coordinating my schedule with my husband’s, or how she might hate me because I will be helping her learn to write cursive, I remember this. I asked for restoration. And I am getting it.
That is something to be grateful for.
I choose one or the other. I can alternate between the two throughout the day. But I cannot do both unless I am satisfied with doing them both half a**.
It took me trying with all my might to do both 100% (and failing, and crying about it) for at least one year. Sometimes I need to prove myself wrong before giving up on an idea.
I finally succumbed, accepting reality. Once I acknowledged that I had to strike a balance and have “Mama work time” and “Mama and Maggie time,” things went more smoothly, both in our home and in my head.
When I fill my list with more than 3 items, I almost always fail and feel like a loser. I compare myself to others. I compare myself to MYSELF on better days.
My mentor gave me the assignment years ago of limiting my list to 3 or fewer items. That felt challenging at first as a former long-list maker. But lowering standards of perfection really helped me enjoy life, live in the moment, and appreciate time with my child.
You cannot dangle a carrot attractive enough in front of me to convince me to stay (in a relationship or at a job) if I am miserable, feel conflicted, or know what I am being asked to do is unethical. Huge freedom man. Huge.
One of those benefits: starting my own business in 2016. With no money set aside. On ZERO budget. And I celebrate four years as a business owner this month, thanks to God’s control of outcomes and wonderful friends, clients, colleagues, and business partners.
This is part of one of my favorite principles for living: prevention vs. damage control.
The more we plan ahead and think big picture, the less likely we are to run out of steam, react rather than respond, and find ourselves in sticky situations in life.
Before I joined a recovery program, many parts of my life could be characterized as “a mess.” My finances were falling apart and had been slowly spiraling in that direction for years. I had just ended one marriage and was in the middle of a horrible dating relationship with someone I never should have dated at all (but couldn’t see any red flags at the time). I quit a toxic job the same day I attended my first 12-Step meeting. My life was a wreck!
Learning to pause, ask for help, and take direction from others with more experience (practice prevention rather than damage control) changed my life.
And no–buying four cans of beans versus one is NOT the same as a major life crisis like going through a divorce… but I think you get what I’m saying here :).
During this crazy time, I have needed some assistance in various areas of life. Because I have maintained good relationships with people who are experts in different fields, these people have come through for me. And I’m grateful.
Burning bridges with people is just never a bad idea. Maintaining solid relationships is always a good idea. Period.
My lifestyle choices are my business. Yours are yours. Life is definitely more serene when I care less what anyone else thinks (as long as me and God are okay, everything is okay).
I have thankfully been able to maintain this perspective during this pandemic.
I know others have not. I see their posts. I read their rants. Then I snooze them on social media because while I love them, I do not want to see their posts or read their rants. I want to let them simmer first.
Judging other people and the way they handle any crisis is simply a bad idea. It won’t help anyone. And it’s going to burn bridges (see #5).
I can trust God.
God has come through for me EVERY SINGLE TIME and in every situation in my life. Through sexual assaults, through divorces, through bankruptcy. You name it. Why would I doubt God’s ability to take care of me and the people I love right now?
I do not.
In reference to #6, I do not know how to best handle the world’s problems. I do my part to take care of myself and my child, and I leave the rest in God’s hands.
I do not have to instruct others on how to care for themselves either. Because–I am not God.
The beauty of this truth is that God requires nothing of me except willingness to sit with open palms and watch Him convert ashes to beauty and darkness to light. If I just keep my eyes open and my mind open, I will see miracles around me. And I do.
Just had to throw that one in there because although I learned that years ago as a small business owner working remotely, I know some of you are just joining the Zoom scene. I’m trying to help you out.
Which life lessons are you thankful you learned–even tough lessons–years ago, long before this healthcare crisis? How have you applied lessons you learned then to the situations you’re faced with today?
My former student, Debjanee Protyasha Nandy, wrote this beautiful short essay recalling her gratitude for a moment when a person extended kindness to her. May we all treat others with the same generosity, concern, and selflessness.
Human beings are not self-sufficient. We need other people in society in order to
survive. Kindness is one of the most important virtues for humankind.
I remember one time when someone helped me out of a situation selflessly. I was a student of the third grade. I was coming home by a rickshaw after school. Suddenly, I felt dizzy and fell off the rickshaw. I was bleeding. The rickshaw puller didn’t want to waste his time helping me.
So, he left. I was completely alone lying on the road bleeding. A man from the nearby construction area came to help me. He took me to the hospital and stayed there with me. He called my mom.
Unfortunately, my mom was two hours away from me. He fed me and took me home. After a while, my mom came and thanked him. She was so mad at me. She scolded me for not being careful enough. I had five stitches. I could not go to school for a week. I was in complete bed-rest.
After a few days, I started to feel better. Although my mom was a working woman,
she took her day off to meet the person who saved her daughter’s life. Unfortunately, I didn’t have his contact information. So, we went to the construction site. We found him working there. My mother expressed her gratitude to him. We invited him for a dinner at our home.
Yet, to this day, I still have flashbacks to my accident. I am thankful for being alive. I
am thankful to him.
My former student, Sarah Humway, wrote this post as an essay for English Comp I class last fall. I loved it and asked if she’d allow me to share it with all of you. She agreed. Thank you, Sarah!
The most influential person in my life was not only someone who could pick me up from my lows, but she was also my best friend; that person is my grandmother, or Mimi. When I was around seven, my parents went through a divorce; therefore, I spent a lot of time with all of my grandparents, but My Mimi and I formed an instant bond. I could rely on her to keep my secrets as well as rely on her to always be willing to get ice cream at the drop of a hat. To this day, Mimi has been extremely influential to my personality and character, which I believe is most important gift I could receive from someone with such wisdom. Needless to say, she is my other half; we share common interests, similar physical attributes, and opinions. The list could go on and on.
As I said, my parents went through a divorce when I was seven, causing me to spend time with both my maternal and paternal grandparents. Mimi and I have always had a special bond since I was her first grandchild. So, for as long as I can remember, I have felt as though a string were tied to my heart, and the other end tied to hers. We especially enjoy going antique shopping despite the odor of mildew and mothballs that cloaked the dust-filled rooms. Typically, we just find odds and end items, but once, we found a few pieces of a dish set called “Lochs of Scotland,” and we were both captivated; the radiant blue detailing against the porcelain white enchanted our inner beings.
I can remember exactly how the shop looked; it was a split level shop on the main strip of Mountain View, Arkansas with wooden floors that made a high pitch creak every time I took a step, clutter filling every square foot of the shop, and dusty antiques littered the shelves. Now, it has become almost ritualistic to go to antique stores on a quest for the dainty dishes, yet we still aren’t tired of it. Antiquing has to be my most fond memory with Mimi because she taught me that even though things might be old, they are still perfectly functional and that I shouldn’t covet new things.
Mimi and I not only share hobbies- we also have a passion for ice cream. No matter the day, time, season, issue, or whatever may be the case, we are always down to get ice cream; we typically go to Baskin Robbins in my hometown, Jonesboro. We typically choose Baskin Robbins because they serve the creamiest true ice cream as well as the perfectly seasoned “homemade” fries in town; another factor we enjoy is that we can watch the midday traffic rush by as our entertainment. The smell of freshly cooked french fries and sandwiches is deeply embedded into my brain along with the precious memories of giggling whilst eating a frozen treat. I can remember this was always our secret “don’t tell Mom place.” For example, if she picked me up from school, we would head over and devour ice cream and french fries until we were content.
Mimi and I also share quite a few physical attributes; we are even mistaken as mother and daughter more often than grandmother and granddaughter. Mimi is my father’s mother, but she resembles my mother as well. Mimi and I both stand about 5’5” with the same stature, as in broad shoulders and a long torso. We also have medium length red hair-which she dyes- pale skin, and bright eyes, which is actually extremely uncommon with natural redheads, since both red hair and blue/green eyes are both recessive genes. Our physical similarities have also encouraged our close-knit relationship because it has provided bonding about how we hate the sun, the redhead jokes growing up, and other silly things like that. I can say with confidence my Mimi and I have a closer relationship than most people have with their spouse because we truly connect on every level.
Lastly, Mimi is the type of person to speak from her mistakes and give an honest opinion, therefore I have been motivated by every thing she has supported me on thus far in life because I value her encouraging thoughts and actions. I have learned to treat the janitor with the same amount of respect as the CEO as a result of Mimi. She has taught me how to find my own happiness and “blossom where I was planted” because she understood my struggles throughout junior high and high school. Our relationship isn’t “earth-shattering,” but she has definitely significantly impacted my life for the better by encouraging and showing me to be a headstrong and self sufficient young adult. I consider Mimi my role model, yet also my best friend, which is the best gift someone could ask for.
Overall, I have expressed my adoration for my grandmother, but she still continues to amaze me with her love and support, therefore I believe she will further impact my life and others around her as well. Mimi is a significant figure in my life because of her devout support for those around her and myself. I will always remember our memories, secret and not secret, because of the immense joy she has brought to my life. At times, I smell someone wearing her perfume (a lavender scented aroma), and I do not feel sad because I’m not with her. I feel inspired to act with compassion as I was taught. I feel it is important to treat others with mercy as if she had engraved it into my soul, yet she simply just showed me the way, and I could not be more grateful.
Today’s guest contributor is one of my English Composition I students, Ryan Clack. He’s graciously given me permission to share his first essay of the fall semester with all of you. I was inspired and touched by his essay; I’m sure you will be, too.
What Makes Ryan Clack, Ryan Clack?
Answering the question above is neither simple nor complicated, but somewhere right in between. In order to start this “Who I Am” essay, I’ll begin with an introduction. My name is Ryan Clack. I am a 20 year-old Caucasian red-headed male from Temecula, California. I was born into this beautiful, yet harsh world on May 18, 1998, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I have three other siblings. Two are my half siblings, and my parents’ names are Ron and Heather Clack. I am not afraid to admit that I’m a little bit of a mama’s boy and have been that way forever, so it’s safe to say I love her very dearly. My father and I share a huge bond in the game of baseball, and he has been such an important piece to my maturity and manhood throughout the years. With that being said, baseball has been my identity my entire life; it’s where I’ve met just about all of my friends, and it has given me the blessing of an opportunity to play collegiate ball on a scholarship on this very campus.
If I were to ask my friends or peers, they would likely tell me that I’m a very outgoing, funny, loving, kind, and smart guy. These are some attributes about myself I cherish and am very proud of. My mama always said, “You’re the most like me,” because she is the same exact way.
Throughout this year I’ve dealt with a great bit of adversity, and that adversity is what makes the overall question a little difficult to answer. Why? I’ve had to learn many lessons since January 17, 2018, the date of my mother’s passing. I feel as if my attributes include being outgoing, funny, loving, kind, and smart. These have not changed due to the fact that those are practically my foundation as a person, but a lot of other things have changed. My mom passed away after a year-long battle with stage 4 colon cancer. The messed up part about everything is the fact that she beat breast cancer in 2016 only to find out six months later that she would be fighting another battle for her life, being diagnosed with colon cancer.
Throughout being there for the process of chemotherapy sessions, sores, and week-long streaks of her being so tired and weak she wouldn’t leave bed, I witnessed a woman who was literally dying become the most positive, loving, fierce, and fearless warrior goddess of all time. Whilst on hospice, she would write on paper because she could no longer speak.
One thing she wrote is so beautiful and powerful that it is what I live by and identify with on this day and every other day. She said, “I live every beautiful day and I can find beautiful on even the worst day.” Since the day that I watched her write this on her deathbed, my whole life changed. I learned to embrace the good, bad, and ugly and endure everything with a smile on my face. I learned how to cope with such immense pain and how to overcome the depression that comes with it.
If you ask “What makes Ryan Clack, Ryan Clack?’ today, I’d be able to give you a great answer. Adversity.
Adversity has turned me from a teenage boy to a man, and although going through it is never easy, I wouldn’t want it any other way. With adversity I have learned countless lessons, great and awful, and it helps me learn through real life experiences. Those real life experiences are free, stone cold, and hard life lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. As of now, I couldn’t be happier with my situation, and I’m extremely blessed to be a part of such an amazing opportunity for me to continue to grow, obtain a degree, and continue to work on becoming the best person that I could possibly become.
Each morning, I spend time reading, praying, and meditating. This morning I started reading the book of Joshua in the Bible. I came across a line in verse five that resonated with me.
“I will not fail you or forsake you.”
I underlined that portion of the verse and meditated on it briefly before gathering cookies for Maggie’s classmates, my cup of coffee, car keys, and cell phone. I whisked Maggie out the door and cranked up the heat. It’s that time of year when I feel false hope about autumn coming until about 10 a.m. By noon, I’m sweating and shedding my sweater.
After dropping Maggie off at school, I returned home to a peaceful, quiet house. We live in the woods, and the sunlight strives to shine through the grove of trees on the eastern hill. The verse I selected came back to me as I stood staring at the sun.
“I will not fail you or forsake you.”
God isn’t failing or forsaking the leaves on those trees and has provided them with exactly the right amount of moisture since spring. God doesn’t fail the trees either; the only trees that fall are those ready to die, decaying at the core. I looked at the light reflecting off the dew on our grass and spider webs in the forest. He maintains the smallest bits of creation we overlook.
Of course he is not forsaking me either.
He provides me with just the right clients at the right time. Last week, one of my favorite clients notified me that this year, funding wasn’t available to hire me. My heart sank. A few hours later, a potential client called me and said he was ready to start working together. Maybe that timing was coincidental; I prefer to view it as providential. God always knows what I need when I need it, even if it’s just to confirm that He’s going before me and planning in love.
God is not failing or forsaking me.
I worried off and on for a year about how my daughter would adjust to starting kindergarten. Each time these fears came to mind, I attempted to let go and trust God. Sometimes I felt relief. Other times I wasn’t sure God would come through for me, even though His track record is stellar. But of course He came through. She was placed in a classroom with the most caring, committed, and well-trained teacher I know. She’s thriving. I’ve seen huge leaps in her ability to write and communicate in just three weeks’ time. And almost every day when I pick her up from school, she yells with glee, “This was the best day EVER!”
God is not forsaking or failing my child.
There is no space for fear when I focus on the ways God has come through for me in the past.
There is no room for fear when I focus on how God is providing for me today either.
I remember attending my first Twelve Step recovery meeting ever. It was an open meeting, and I attended with a friend. I listened. I learned a lot and felt that even though what people were sharing didn’t totally apply to me, there was something warm and familiar about it all the same. I couldn’t put my finger on it.
A few months later, I understood that warm and familiar feeling to be home. I related to the feelings shared, even though the details were different, because I had been affected by similar problems and situations.
I never stopped the Twelve Step movement in my life after that. This summer, I celebrate my eleventh year in recovery. When I attended my first meeting, I was dating an alcoholic (I later married him, and subsequently divorced him). He insisted I find my own program of recovery because I was driving him crazy. Truthfully, I was probably driving him completely nuts, regardless of his behavior and his contributions to the chaos in our relationship.
Fast forward 11 years. A lot has happened in the gap, but one thing has remained steady and constant in my life–my relationship with God and my growth in recovery. Divorce, financial ruin, relocation, grad school, pregnancy, major health concerns, marriage, legal stress, parenthood, entrepreneurship … you name it. Life happens to us, right? That doesn’t change just because we choose to align ourselves with healthier people, attend Twelve Step meetings, and pursue a better path for ourselves. Life keeps happening. Will we avoid as many potential pitfalls if we’re making better choices? Probably. But life rolls on, and we cannot prevent that.
I’ve observed something interesting over the past decade which sometimes seems strange. A dissonance, a distinct difference, even tension between the way I view (and choose) to view the world, and the way others view and choose to view it.
Why the dissonance? Why the difference? Why the vast chasm?
Yes, I follow Christ, and that certainly sets me apart from a large group of people who do not. But it’s not those people I’m referencing here. There are many of my friends and family members, most of whom follow Christ, who truly seem to be unable to relate to my perspective and worldview. What’s changed? Me or them? If it’s me, what is it about me that’s changed so much?
I’ll never get inside others’ heads to figure this out entirely–and honestly, I don’t want to–but I do find it interesting. Here’s one thing God brought to my attention a few weeks ago: When two people have experienced reality entirely differently, it is nearly impossible for them to perceive the world similarly.
I chatted with a friend of mine who works in Christian ministry a few weeks ago, and that’s when this really hit me. He shared with me a situation that occurred years ago when many folks in ministry conflicted over changing a denominational policy. Some of the people stood by their beliefs without becoming petty or criticizing individuals (maintaining a polite, cordial attitude toward others involved). But a few people lashed out at the group, posted hateful messages online, and demonstrated the exact behavior that makes Christians cringe in embarrassment. We lamented about the situation together.
“I don’t know why, but that’s just one of those hot button topics that always gets people going,” he mused.
“Yeah, I guess so. I can’t relate to that anymore. I think there was a time when I had an opinion about that stuff… not now. I can’t even muster an ounce of concern about that if I try.”
I wasn’t being sarcastic. I was serious. My entire perception of what really matters has completely changed. I really did join in on splitting doctrinal hairs in the past, and I enjoyed those conversations and would defend my soapbox to the bitter end. And not just that–I used to pride myself on serving as vigilante of almost everyone or anything. I loved that stuff. I LOVED THAT STUFF. If you’d asked me the question, How important is that, really? I would have responded, It’s VERY important!
Then I lived in alcoholism for a decade. And I faced PTSD during that time from multiple incidents of sexual assault and other situations. I finally sought counseling and help through the Twelve Steps, but not until my life began to crumble into bits at my feet. It was not the best time of my life.
When your reality has been lived in mire, in fighting dark spiritual battles for quite some time, your perception changes. First world problems aren’t problems at all. You don’t have room on your plate for things like bickering, gossip, and scandal.
Yet even when you move from darkness to light–and thank God, that has happened for me–you may still feel permanent dissonance between the way you see the world and the way others see it. Does that mean those who don’t see it the way you see it are wrong, or that something is inherently wrong with you?
Not at all. It’s just a reminder that the world is varying shades, that not every human experiences trauma, and that God works through each of us differently. It’s a reminder that we cannot go to the bakery expecting to purchase hardware. That we can’t expect people who’ve never been in a pit to feel comfortable sitting next to us in the bottom of one while we work our way out, one Step at a time. It’s a reminder that God goes before us, plans in love, and converts what was meant for Evil into our Ultimate Good.
My daughter earned her first $1 bill today. Is that legal? Surely not. Well, it happened, nonetheless.
We enjoyed lunch after church at a local diner. Our waitress, a young, cheerful woman who told me she had a five year-old son, went out of her way to express kindness to my daughter, and I was thankful. She brought Maggie chips before our meals arrived. Any parent understands the magnitude of this gift (if this doesn’t happen, your child morphs into some sort of monster in 5.2 minutes). She entertained all of Maggie’s detailed questions patiently. Maggie enjoyed her gigantic flower-shaped pancake, coated in margarine and syrup, and had a grand old time. After the meal, the waitress jokingly asked Maggie if she wanted to help clear the table to help pay for the meal. And lo and behold, Maggie agreed to help.
She jumped up from the table and followed the waitress around, asking what she could do to help. My mama heart burst with love and joy, watching my daughter serve. She didn’t expect anything in return—she genuinely wanted to clean, serve, and assist our waitress. Our waitress allowed her to help clear the table and then gave Maggie a $1 bill as a gift for helping out. Maggie thought she’d won the lottery and beamed from ear to ear with pride, clutching the money and her stuffed puppy dog, Homer, as we headed to the car, waving goodbye to our new waitress friend.
I remembered all the times that week I’ve felt grumpy and cantankerous about doing laundry, cleaning up after dinner, and loading and emptying the dishwasher. How many times had I begrudgingly washed my daughter’s hair or felt annoyed that I couldn’t enjoy my coffee alone in the afternoon? I specifically recalled feeling disgruntled about trying to hurriedly finish editing a presentation while Maggie attempted to crawl in my lap. And while I have to extend grace to myself–because parenting is difficult, and I am not perfect–I can also learn a lot if I watch my daughter closely. Maybe if I attempt to approach life with just a little bit more of her attitude of service, enthusiasm, and joy over what seem to be tiny moments, I’ll feel less overwhelmed, less disgruntled, and less annoyed when I’m juggling parenting, housekeeping, friending, and working. And maybe if I find pleasure right where I am, I’ll also feel a little less brokenhearted when she slams the car door and walks into school morning after morning, year after year, in just a few short months.
Last night, my friend Janet and I shared our dreams with one another.
I’m not talking about lofty dreams about life goals. No. I’m talking about couches. Yes. Couches. #MomGoals
“I just want a deep, rich blue couch. I love blue. Royal blue, you know, and textures. Lots of textures.” I think Janet might have begun drooling at this point. Pretty sure.
“I’ve always wanted an emerald-green couch, like dark emerald green… Oh! There! That color right behind you on that metal wheel. That’s it!” I, too, salivated a little while sipping my 8 p.m. cup of coffee while sitting on Janet’s floral sofa. The same sofa cushion Janet admittedly accidentally scorched on her wood stove that very week after one of her children peed atop it.
Yeah. Our lives are super glam.
While we dreamed about couches, we both recognized that we lacked gratitude for our current couches. Sure, the couches are worn. Our children have peed on the cushions. Do you know how to remove urine from couch cushions? It isn’t easy, and honestly, the smell never fully dissipates. And milk? Same. Then there’s the glue, the markers, the Sharpies, for the love of parenting.
But at the end of the day, we both own two couches. We can sit on the couches and even sleep on them if we must. The couches serve a purpose, right? Yep. So even though we dream about luxe versions, we’re okay with what we have, ultimately.
Sometimes it helps to sound off to a friend. And sometimes it helps to have a friend remind you that she wants your worn floral sofa! Here’s a video capturing some of our conversation from last night.
Maybe you can relate if you’re a mom struggling to get by with your crusty old couch for a few more years while your kids continue to trample over it. Or maybe you can relate because you don’t own a couch. You don’t own a home. You don’t even have a place to call home, and you’re reading this blog on a computer in the public library, wondering why this pretentious woman would ever find room to complain about a crusty old couch at all.
That’s exactly why I’m writing this blog. Because I need to remember to maintain perspective. What I have really is enough. It’s not enough for me to accept that “it is what it is.” I must sink into my couch, smell its stench, and remember that it stinks because we’ve lived here. WE LIVE here. And thank God for our lives.
And then, only then, can I live in contentment and peace. In gratitude.