Thursday, September 22, 2016

28 Lessons for 28 Candles

I keep forgetting that it's time for me to turn another year older.

I shouldn't be surprised, what with the patches of premature grey hair. But I've already decided I'm keeping any grey that comes my way. Que sera, sera. I'm free to be me.

There are some pretty big changes taking place around these parts. None that I care to go into great depth right now. But this year has been one of fulfillment, growth, letting go, support, encouragement and fighting the no-you-can't voice with all my strength.

I've celebrated a year of marriage with my new husband, launched a podcast with a dear friend, traveled to weddings, baby showers, held my baby nephew, made new friends, celebrated year three of hosting a small group at my house, nearly completed an e-book on dating and marriage.

And continued to chip away at thoughts here.

I can't tell you what an honor it is to write for you. Another year, another few insights.

Which brings me to today's post. 28 Lessons for 28 Candles. A listicle, yes. But I wanted to write out a few thoughts, things I've learned over the years. All of these are still work-in-progress, and are more a reminder to myself than anything else:

1. OxiClean. Everything. Dish detergent. Laundry. Cleaner. All of it. I have no idea how harmful it is for the environment, but I try to walk everywhere (except my 20 minute commute to work), so I hope it all comes out in the wash (heh).

2. Wait for the man who's too mature to play games and leave you wondering. Wait for the man who will let you know where you stand at every inch of your relationship. This is the man worth marrying. All the other boys from your past can look at your hot Instagram updates and cry.

3. Running heals stress, self-doubt, writer's block, anger, sadness, all of it. There's a joy that comes with taking a few more steps than last time and the time before that. And Target's workout clothes section is both dangerous and wonderful.

4. The heartbreak of trying and failing is easier to overcome than the

nostalgia of a dream you never pursued.

5. If you miss work because you're sick, the rest of the world will be able to carry on without you. And your co-workers will thank you for not spreading your germs. Don't be a "hero." People may gossip about you or roll their eyes, but they'll forget after a while. Stay at home and watch You've Got Mail.

6. If you're not a nice person online, you're not a nice person. Period.

7. When you're tempted to gossip about someone, turn your comment into a compliment if you can't restrain yourself from speaking about them all-together. Never speak anything ill of another person. It could come back to haunt you, yes, but it also solidifies the things that annoy you about them. Making it harder to forgive and move on.

8. If you're in a new church, stick around for at least five minutes after the sermon. No exceptions. That's how you meet people. And that's how a church becomes your family.

9. Never complain about getting older. Wear your age with honor and pride. It's not en vogue to be depressed about something you can do absolutely nothing about. We twenty somethings spend too much time thinking we're older than we actually are, anyway.

10. It's better to let others discover the genius in you, rather than trying to market yourself to death. Let your work be the gift and any recognition you get as a result, a lovely cherry on top.

11. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

12. Midnight premieres of movies sound like a much better idea than they actually are.

13. Ditto nights of three-plus glasses of wine.

14. Paying a few hundred dollars toward your student loans each month will hurt at first. And you'll be tempted to only pay the required monthly payment from time to time. But there's a lot of joy in watching five-digit numbers turn to four-digits over time.

15. If you can't pay for it with the amount of money you have in your

checking account, you can't afford it.

16. Meal planning. Always. It takes fifteen minutes, tops. It saves you time and money at the grocery store. And it makes date nights all-the-more enjoyable.

17. Go to the doctor. Everything on Web MD will either tell you that you're pregnant or have cancer. Chances are you have neither. Especially if you're a dude.

18. You can't drink a glass of wine and get a pedicure in the name of "self-care" if you then simultaneously go to bed at 2 a.m. Self-care starts with getting a reasonable amount of rest, eating something healthy and getting your body out the door.

19. If you're in a money crunch, delete all of your pre-saved credit card information from Amazon, Etsy and all of your other hot-button money tempters. Unsubscribe from cute but cheap clothing, or jewelry sites. You'll save more than you realize.

20. Don't even attempt to start the work day without listening to "Guns and Ships" from the Hamilton soundtrack.

21. People pleasing rarely pleases everyone. Especially if it makes you

22. Go to small group, even when you don't feel up for it.

23. Whenever possible, be the woman who honors her commitments. Be the woman who people know they can count on to show up when she says she will.

24. Everyone can pull off red lipstick. It's all about finding the 

right shade that works for you. 

Side note: you don't have to get fancy with it. Wet 'n' Wild will do just fine in a pinch!

25. To receive snail mail, you must first send it. Also applies to dinner dates, coffee dates, and time with your best girlfriends. You can't expect everyone to flock to you. You are not Scarlet O'Hara at the barbecue. Relationships take time and effort. And sometimes it means being the first to reach out.

26. Work on the art of not being offended when you get unsolicited or premature life advice. Yes, it's annoying when strangers speak out of turn about engagements, weddings, marriage, pregnancy, disciplining, saving for college. But you don't have to take it. Or let it affect your attitude. Make like Elsa and let it go. (And maybe hold on to the advice that sticks, because, admit it, you don't know everything).

27. Accept compliments genuinely.

28. Don't abandon the ship when the water gets rough. It's the water that makes the boat rock.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

You Don't Have to Do it Alone

Group projects were the worst.

Extrovert that I am, all through middle school and high school I hated them. Because my pride, my patronizing others and their ability to get the work done and done well siphoned me off. I didn't need or want any help from anyone.

I was going to do it all by myself.

Thoughts and feelings of others, be damned. I could do it better and faster. Alone. I wasn't mean about it. At least, I hope I wasn't. It was just the way it was. I'd take on a little more of the workload here and there, because I knew I could get it done. On time. With a guaranteed "A" in the back-pocket.

Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom!

What's worse is that I knew better. I've had friendships along the way that have treated me similarly. The mistrust. The micromanaging. The control drove me crazy. It was borderline insulting.

You don't think I'm capable of doing x, y, or z?

You don't think I can make a phone call or turn in a paper without you checking in?

You don't think I'm as smart or as capable as you? 

Don't we have the same letters behind our names?

Didn't we grow up in the same school system? Aren't we in the same life stage?

Of course, it was only obnoxious when others treated me this way. Their actions weren't justified, unlike mine, of course. I carried this attitude into grad school, adulthood, and advanced adulthood (where they teach you about taxes and explain the secret that no one really knows what they're doing).

 I carried this attitude until I became a runner. And stumbled upon this phrase in the midst of training, group runs, dodging in and out of running stores:

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

 Well, then. Shall we cue the mic drop?

I took a look at how I was treating others in the midst of what I thought was supreme leadership skills and a good work ethic and realized it was the opposite. It was jagged, iron-jawed control. It was stepping on toes. It was selfish. And what's worse, it inhibited others from flourishing.

It was hard to step back and admit that someone might have a better idea than me. Someone might be more qualified and have more experience. Bringing other people into the mix, into the story,  might carry all of us farther.

It might be what community was designed for.

This week, my dear boss lady friend and I launched our very first podcast episode. And let me tell you, it has been a group effort from the very start. From our pictures, to our logo, our theme song, to our episode itself, so many people had a hand in the process.

And we've come so much further together by inviting other people in. By their being willing to work with us. By the privilege of having people who design, snap photos, compose musical tracks and produce audio so much better than we ever could, support us.

Carry some of the load. And sing their wonderful praises along the way (I'm looking at you Christen, Amanda, and my wonderful husband, Gordon).

I'm a writer, primarily. So much of what I do is solitary. And for so long, I liked it that way: I had no one to keep accountable but myself.

But, until this project launched, I'd forgotten how important and utterly fun it is to invite others in. We're lucky. We have some great people standing beside us.

And we didn't do any of it alone for one second.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Marriage Sure Isn't a Prize

And here we are, September.

A year ago, my husband and I were quietly learning what it meant to be husband and wife. After the parties ended. After our photographer had passed along our images. After my dress had been pressed and preserved.


The real work of it. The breaking of your dating patterns. The bubbling first few months of leaving the house each morning knowing you'll miss him. The avoiding plans between work and home, just so you'll be able to see him sooner.

I was speaking with a sweet girlfriend a few days ago about forever, and how long it seems.

"You'll be thankful for forever," I said.

Being truly, honestly, whole-heartedly thankful that I get forever with this man. That I have his support for a lifetime. How quickly more than a year has breezed by, and how I'm frightened how quickly forever seems.

Slow down, forever.

Before I was married, before I even dated Gordon, before I was out of the sludge of bad relationship decisions and dating nearly anyone who showed a glimmer of interest in me: the jerks, the men who hit, or drink too much, or who were just flat-out wrong, wrong, wrong, I thought marriage was a reward.

I thought it was a prize for the people who had their lives together.


At the time, there seemed to be a checklist for people who were married:

-They were virginal (for the most part).

-They had, at one point, Kissed Dating Goodbye.

- They were in the folds of God's will for their lives (or at least, it seemed that way). 

-They generally had their lives together in a neat little package.

Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom! Showers! Pinterest boards! Invitations! Rings!

Rehearsal dinners! Weddings!

The recipe for marriage. Not only that, but the recipe for deserving marriage. And, at the time, I didn't know what I was doing wrong.

Looking back, this reasoning made absolutely no sense. I knew plenty of broken people who were married. I am such broken person. We all are. Married or not.

I really thought that if I lived my life perfectly, if I dotted my spiritual i's, if went to a Christian graduate school, didn't cuss, let people pass me on the highway, volunteered, made regular appearances in church and Sunday school, and maybe painted in my Bible, I'd be ready. I'd have earned my way into a marriage.

But I've learned that marriage is nothing you earn. It's not a prize for being a phenomenal Christ-follower. It's not the end-goal. It's not even a goal in and of itself.

Marriage is a gift.

By my former standards, f you were to ask why I'm married at this moment, I wouldn't be able to tell you. I've done nothing to deserve the caring and attentive man who asked me to be his wife. I couldn't have begun to earn a second of the deep happiness, the fun, the care and support he's given to me so selflessly these past few months.

And I'm so grateful.

No blessing in our lives, marriage, great career, bonus paycheck, kids, homes, book deals, none of it comes about as something we've earned. The greatest desires of our hearts -- whatever they are -- never come about simply because we're in the best place to receive them.

Sometimes we just happen to be.

But most times, they're more of a reflection of the Giver than us, as the recipient. And today, I'm ever-thankful for this gift I don't deserve, but am so thankful to have been blessed with: my husband.