So in the last couple of weeks, I participated in a really cool challenge called #10thingstotellyou
on Instagram from Laura Tremaine
. Every day for 10 days she posed a discussion question and thousands of posts were submitted. Some responses were funny, some heart-felt, some tear-jerking, others downright heart-breaking. I was so, so proud of the tribe that followed this thing through. I loved the honesty, the authentic sharing, and the uplifting comments that followed. Way to go, Laura! Such a meaningful experience. Not only did I learn a lot about myself and feel more inspired to write than I have in awhile, but I found myself so enthused at the grit, drive, and tenderness that so many were willing to share. It was beautiful to say the least.
I poured a lot into my responses and I wanted to preserve them. So I’m re-sharing them here on my blog. If you don’t follow social media or want to read them all straight through, have at it friends! I do want to say that these were all limited to the number of words allowed on Instagram. Of course I could write so many more paragraphs about each one, so know that these were the words I chose to be the most important of all the words for each day. But if you want to engage for further discussion, well… let’s!
I don’t normally do stuff like this but I enjoy a challenge, so…y’all are just going to have to endure the next 10 days 😂
I grew up…in the 80s. That means friendship bracelets, banana seat bikes, “come home when it gets dark,” too much Aqua-net, popples, original Nintendo, phones WITH cords, Michael Jackson and Madonna, scrunchies, fluorescent everything, and Full House on Thursday nights (because you had to be in front of the actual TV when the actual show came on).
I grew up…in The Couv 👊🏼
I grew up… in a mended family. I have one bio bro and two step-bros and an incredible heroic mama and fantastic dad (drop the “step” because he raised me for heaven’s sake). We joke that we are the most functional dysfunctional family. My dad’s ex-wife and her crew join for family events and holiday dinners and I never knew otherwise. Also anyone else who needs a home on a holiday. My first family taught me about the value of inclusivity just by their actions and it is ingrained in me. What a joy to be so free. What a burden to practice anything else.
I grew up…learning that I can fix anything if I am willing to learn and put in the effort. Frugality breeds character and limitations lead to creativity. From this perspective I can re-tile a bathroom, change a tire or the oil on my own car, and make a dollar out of fifteen cents.
I grew up… with so much laughter. Laughter, real belly laughter, comes from regular character-building and inside jokes. My family is regularly shooshed in public. Even now. Well, especially now. Because there are so, so many grandkids. And so many words and stories.
But I do believe that laughter is the love-child of joy. And joy is a direct gift from the One who created us all. And you can’t deny that. Embrace it, express it, let no one rob it from you.
Today we are talking about “Someone who has influenced me…”
I am happy to report that I had a hard time choosing because there are just so many great ones! Ultimately I am going with the one that popped into my head first, like one of those psychological multiple choice tests.
I stumbled upon Jen Hatmaker
about 4 or 5 years ago when we were in the throes of our adoption process. I was scouring the internet, desperate to connect with other adoptive moms via adoption blogs and quickly found myself both laughing and crying as I read her work. She wrote with honesty, bravery, grit, love, and wisdom. Plus she, like me, is married to a pastor and, like me, adopted from Ethiopia. Plus, she is as crazy passionate as me about food and cooking. I knew immediately I’d found a lifeline in her.
Since then I’ve read several of her books including two of my favorites, Of Mess and Moxie and For The Love. Even though I haven’t met her yet, she writes in such a way that makes me feel like I know her. That inspires me to do the same. I love conversational writing. Also, did I mention she makes me laugh until I cry?
Another thing I love about Jen is that she puts her words into action in very real ways. She’s an avid supporter of Noonday Collection. She’s a regular contributor to The Today Show Parenting. She travels around the country speaking on important topics. I’ve seen her advocate for important issues in DC. She and her husband Brandon founded Legacy Collective, which seeks to affect issues of social injustice by funding projects around the world. Their church in Austin, TX celebrates Easter with homeless and underserved people literally under a bridge every year, complete with meals, music, a portable vet clinic, and new shoes for all.
Things Jen has taught me (whether she meant to or not!): to always set a wider table, to get in my lane, to do my thing, to hone my craft, to be robust, to love with ridiculous love, to be my kids’ biggest cheerleader.
And perhaps the most important way she has influenced me is by helping me realize that we only get this one quick little life. And to make it count in the very best way.
A thing that changed my worldview was…my trip to Palestine and Israel earlier this year.
Firstly, Ben and I left OUR THREE CHILDREN at home for two weeks with my parents and everyone was reunited alive and well, so faith and prayer obviously work.
Secondly, I cannot speak more extravagantly about how I was affected by our time there. I am embarrassed to say that I had a really minimal knowledge base about what is happening in that part of the world.
I came away a changed person.
Our guide, Andre, of Twins Tours,
was a gem of a teacher, counselor, and pastor. What a gift to be in his presence for 12 days as we navigated the Dead Sea, the desert (legitimately), the Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem and the West Bank, and ultimately Jerusalem. We talked with people on all sides of the conflict and heard so many perspectives.
I bawled with a Muslim man one night after hearing the atrocities brought upon his family. I bawled my whole entire way through the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Injustice coursed through my heart as I listened to Daoud Nassar of Tent of Nations
, who has sought justice and peace as a Palestinian Christian in the face of adversity for over 20 years in the West Bank.
Basically what I have come to know is this: we can have ideas and politics and religion and it’s all well and good.
The moment we fail to recognize the actual people, the families, the children of those who are living on the fringes of those ideas, politics and religion…we have a problem. I not only welcome all to the discussion, but encourage you to lay down your word weapons and just listen. Listen to the stories of those who are living in the open-air prison of the West Bank. Listen to the Jewish people. The Muslim people. Consider, explore, envision just for a moment, what each individual life is like before casting opinions on woulds and shoulds.
We would all do a bit better to listen rather than talk. Especially us Westerners.
I am strangely good at…flossing.
Gotta keep relevant. Or at least awkward enough to embarrass your kids. 😂
Day 4 of #10thingstotellyou, comin’ atcha a day late…because sometimes I have to do things in actual life.
🎥 credit: Nina P.
Ironically enough, something I have mixed feelings about is…social media.
Used properly, it can be a handy way to disseminate information, provide entertainment, feel closer to friends and loved ones, and even help a cause or someone in need. Ain’t no lie; I love it and I use it regularly. My adoption community is via social media. I love bantering with friends. I love watching Kalen Reacts and Juggling The Jenkins Blog videos. I love seeing my little nieces and nephews who all live entirely too far away.
But…all too often social media becomes a thief, stealing our time, productivity, meaningful interactions with people standing right in front of us, and even our joy (social media-shaming is a THING).
I’ve been considering this question recently: what is the purpose of my post? Is it to feel good about myself? To see how many “likes” I get? To persuade everyone that my day/life/vacation/family is living our best life and that it’s maybe just a wee bit better than yours? Shameful.
I love my SM people dearly but my (and your) value comes from a much higher power than that of the internet. It comes from the One who knows my heart and sees my life perfectly without filters and loves me more deeply than I can ever know, despite it all.
I’ve been considering 2 challenges in my own life lately when it comes to social media.
The first: what if I came to the platform prepared to offer only the following: A word of encouragement. The promise that “you are not alone”? The truth that “you matter”? Or “that you can do hard things”? Or “that you are loved”? How about an inspirational message that compels us all to be better, without the shaming aspect? Why not something that will make people laugh so hard they cry? Perhaps sharing an opportunity to help someone out or make the world just a little bit better today than it was yesterday?
And the second challenge to my own self (but maybe you too): JUST PUT THE PHONE DOWN. Like, in another room. On silent. With the door closed. Likes and posts and comments aren’t going anywhere and they will still be there after you play LIFE and eat popcorn and read books and snuggle your precious babies to sleep.
A defining moment in my life was…Februrary 28 thru March 21, 2014. For these three weeks a baby who was supposed to still be cooking inside my belly was instead living outside the womb in the NICU.
I remember it like it was yesterday and anticipate that I always will: the nurses’ names, the sound of the monitors, the room I sometimes slept in, the food I ate, the smell of the bactericidal soap. The turmoil of emotion- fear, guilt, sadness, even joy- combined with wonky hormones, sent me into an unending cycle of exhaustion. It was defining because it was traumatic, no doubt. But I would be amiss if I left it at that. I learned a few important things during our time in the NICU.
#1: that peace is possible even in the midst of chaos. I cannot describe the overwhelming sense of peace I had while we were there; I have never felt so calm, confident, and trusting in my life. I can only attribute this to the power of prayer, largely from our church community in Jackson where prayer warriors abound.
#2: As the recipient of a lot of care ministry during that time (side lesson in humility), I learned that the most unhelpful thing to tell someone in need is “Let me know if I can do anything.” Because the reality is that sometimes people who are in need don’t KNOW what they need. And even if they do, they probably aren’t going to circle back around to a vague offer like this. Because of this, I’ve learned to be bold and specific in what I offer to others. Examples: “Can I bring you dinner tomorrow?” “I’m coming over to do your laundry this afternoon, so leave me a key.” “I’m grabbing your kids from school today so you can have some free time.” People will say no if they really don’t want the help you offer, but chances are, they do. So just do it.
#3: This is when I (re)discovered my love of writing. I started blogging, mainly to disseminate information via Caring Bridge, but quickly realized that the writing was as much for me as it was for those reading it. This set me on a path I might not have taken otherwise. Since then I’ve written two other blogs and am pursuing writing more every day.
A recent discovery I can’t stop talking about is…shampoo bars.
And I will say also, that “I can’t stop talking about it” feels a bit extreme. I am a solid introvert and I can stop talking about anything whenever I feel like it. 😊 But. I am kind psyched on these bars. I was looking for a non-liquid option for traveling and a friend recommended these. I LOVE THEM.
The shampoo actually suds up nicely and the conditioner works well too. They also carry body bars (I like the spearmint and tea tree bar), face bars, lotion bars, and even dog-washing bars. Plus they are free of bad chemicals AND they are plastic-free. Such an easy and yummy way to help love our earth just a little bit more. What are you doing to reduce your plastic consumption? #giveupthebottle #unplastictheplanet #ethique #10thingstotellyou
Day 8 be like, “Bare your soul, everyone’s doing it.” So here I go.
Something that I’m struggling with right now is…how exactly to direct my professional energy.
I am an RN by training and it’s all I’ve known as a profession since I was a sweet young thing at twenty-two. I loved being an RN and found a lot of fulfillment in my career. I was proud of what I did and honored that it played a role in defining me as a person. But really deep down inside I always knew that it would not be my only career.
About a year and a half ago, I realized it was time. Time to close the book on being a nurse and open a new book on…something. It was a terrifying realization, one I was too scared to even utter out loud to myself, let alone another actual person, for quite some time. But when I finally did, there was an incredible freedom that fell over me and I knew it was right.
This is not something I talk about honestly enough. I 100% use my kids as the reason I cut way back on nursing. I say “cut back” because, try as I might, I wasn’t ready to give it up completely without something else tangible to turn to. I still get my nurse on a few days a month. I say that my kids need me because I don’t have anything else to say. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t like not knowing what I’m doing. I am in the middle, somewhere between the “already” of nursing and the “not yet” of something else. It’s rather unnerving.
But, you guys: it’s no secret that I love to write. To be very honest, writing was the main catalyst that propelled me into this uncertain state I now find myself in. So I’m getting vulnerable and bold. I’m saying out loud for all to hear: my passion to pursue writing is the real and main reason I am moving away from my nursing career. Not the kids. And I don’t have much to show for it; it’s mostly been an inside job so far. It’s not measurable and I’m learning to be ok with that. I have big dreams for my writing career that I manage to dash into a thousand pieces almost daily. Then, little by little, I sweep up those pieces and believe in myself again. That my words matter and that they are worth saying. Out loud.
My magical reset button is…
But like, do we have to choose just one?
I have a few. In no particular order.
1. Going for a long run with my Spotify Running Mix, made up mostly of explicit lyrics from yesteryear (the 90s).
2. Wine. Obvs.
3. Text threads with people who banter well. You know who you are.
4. Binge-watching The Office. Thank you, Netflix.
5. Laughing until I cry.
6. An introvert’s dream: a few hours at my house without other people present. Introverts fill their bucket with alone time; extroverts fill their bucket with human interaction. Neither is better than the other. It just is.
7. Dancing. Also singing.
8. Unexpected adventures.
9. Deep, good, meaningful conversation with people who are passionate about something. I don’t even care if the thing they are passionate about is not something I’m passionate about. I just like the energy that passionate people bring.
10. Inside jokes.
11. Lavender everything.
12. Cooking. The smell of onions and garlic sizzling in a pan is the beginning of every good and life-giving thing. The kitchen is a haven of joy to my soul.
This is the 10th and final day of the #10thingstotellyou challenge.
In 3 months will you ask me about…
The wild, crazy, once-in-a-lifetime adventures that 2019 will bring? It’s a year I’ve been waiting for a long time to arrive. A year that has felt theoretical for ages and suddenly it is around the corner. Currently I’m experiencing equal parts excitement and anxiety. Ha! The perfect precursor to a good adventure, right? But seriously, a quick ask about my mental health would be a good idea from dear friends.
Well, that’s the end of the #10thingstotellyou challenge from Laura Tremaine / 10 Things To Tell You. So fun, thought-provoking, challenging, community-building and inspiring to see what others have said. I’ve loved every day! ❤️