Does anyone else have a hard time getting back to the rhythm of life after New Year's? This week feels like the first "normal" week since before Christmas - and it's not even actually normal since we had a long weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I'm declaring today an honorary Tuesday, so this old-fashioned post is a day late (but not really, because it's an honorary Tuesday).
A Winter Walk
Today I sat down to type this with my bowl of mini wheats, Gwen sitting in the chair next to me. Then I heard "Bobby* doesn't talk to me anymore." I looked up, and she was looking at me with big, sad brown eyes. She just looked at me, because I'm the mom and it's my job now to explain these things and make them better. And my heart broke a little, and I didn't know what to say to my sweet little four-year-old with her first friendship hurt.
I remember the first time it occurred to me that my children were going to be hurt by their friends. When Wyatt was about two years old, he made a little friend in his nursery class at church. Every time I sent him in, his friend would grab his arm and include him in whatever the kids were playing. I stood outside the nursery window and watched this once, and I just remember feeling that squeeze in my heart. I was so happy he had a little friend, but I was also strangely scared. What if his friend dumped him eventually? What if the friend decided he liked playing with someone else more and Wyatt felt left out?
I've had my share of friendship hurts, but it's even harder for me to think about my kids being hurt. I know it's the nature of the beast, so to speak. You can't really venture out and make the good friends without also taking the potential for hurt that comes with it, but knowing that doesn't make it easier to watch your children as they take steps into the friendship minefield. It's only a matter of time. I just pray that they'll find friends who are good enough to make the risks worth it.
I looked at Gwen, grasping for words. I mumbled something about little boys going through a stage where they only want to play with the other boys, and said "I'm sorry, honey." It seemed to be good enough. Now she's bouncing around Clarice's high chair and laughing, friendship woes forgotten.
I'm the one still sitting here thinking about it.
Hair Color and Cut
Moving on to something more superficial, this week is not only inauguration week (for which I've planned a whole little President unit study for our homeschool), but it's also haircut week! For me, and for the boys (because I need to break out the razor and give them a haircut this week). I still can't bear to cut Gwen's hair.
On Saturday I'm getting my hair cut and colored. This is what it looks like now:
I think it looks fine now, but I'm overdue for a trim. The shape is getting a little wonky, and I wouldn't mind an inch or so taken off (not too much because I want to grow it out a little for the summer, but we'll see). The part I'm having a hard time with is the color. I'll probably just get my usual blonde and red highlights, but part of me wonders if I should try something new.
What is "in" these days? I rarely color or highlight my hair, and I am definitely not up to date on current hair trends. I kind of do my own thing, at least thus far, but I am going to ask my hairstylist/friend if she has any ideas. I kind of like these (ignore the purple and blue ideas, those are for if/when I get up the nerve someday - which is not today).
Brunette Friends, do you color or highlight your hair? What's your favorite look? Should I try something new or stick with the old stand-by?
I'll post an updated picture next week!
What I'm Drinking: Celestial Seasonings Coconut Thai Chai. Think of a more summery spin on chai tea. It's good!
Old School Blogger Shoutout:
Felicia at Behind The Yellow Door - My dear friend Felicia has jumped on the old-fashioned blogging bandwagon! She wrote a post about her New Year's Goals, and I think I need to steal her book goal for myself (too many books, you know).
Bekah at Shafferland - Bekah is a newer blog friend, and I have really been enjoying getting to know her better through her blog!
*Bobby is not the real name. But it seems like a great fake little boy name, right?
I was excited when I saw a book available for review called "I'm Happy For You . . . Sort Of . . . Not Really" by Kay Willis Wyma. Don't you love that title? I'm not going to lie, I have secretly had those feelings in that exact order. Many times.
I like to think of myself as a "life long learner". That phrase was first introduced to me in a 100 level education class when I was a freshman at Wheaton College. I have always love learning - and the more I learn the more I realize I have yet to learn. So, when I became a mom a little over a year ago, I knew that there were lots of things I was going to be learning. One area I was surprised that I needed to learn about was friendship. I thought I had the making-and-maintaining-friendships thing down pretty good...but it turns out that there were a few things I needed to learn and re-learn during this past year.
Things I never knew about friendship...
I just finished reading Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure Of Finding Mom Friends by Melanie Dale. I think it’s funny that I have read two different friendship books so close together (the other was Heart Sisters), because it gives me a chance to compare them. If Heart Sisters was a guide to deepening your friendships, I think this would be more of a guide to forming friendships. Dale takes you through that awkward first phase when you know nothing about each other with humorous tips on how to take your “mom dating” friendships to the next level.
I think the subtitle does describe some of my feelings about this book pretty well - I felt like much of it was awkward. Dale uses a dating, first-base, second-base, etc. metaphor to describe the different stages of forming friendships with other moms. That was just an awkward comparison to me to start with, and Dale’s sense of humor thrives on awkward, so the awkwardness was just emphasized. If you like that kind of humor, you probably would love this book. For me, I thought the dating comparisons bordered on inappropriate at times, especially in today’s world where references to homosexuality abound. She wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort in the actual meat of this book, but that’s why I found it hard to relax and enjoy reading it. Plus, I’m just not a potty-humor kind of person, and those jokes are prevalent. Dale self-identifies as “gross”, so you can get an idea of some of the humor.
That said, I did think a lot of the situations and movie references in the book were funny! I thought there were many useful tips and inspirations for making friends scattered throughout, as well as just commonsense advice about how to handle certain difficult situations with friends. Her stories were hilarious, and if you have ever had an awkward friendship moment, you can read this book and know you are not alone. It made me think about and appreciate the friends I have who have stuck with me through all these stages, and it was good inspiration to put the effort in with some ladies I haven’t known as long. I’m not sure I would necessarily recommend this book just because of some of the humor, but it kept me interested and I did enjoy it.
Note: I received a copy of this book for free from BookLook in exchange for this review - this is my honest opinion.
Do you have one of those friends who will always stand by you - who you just know will be a friend all your life because you have gone through the ups and downs together? Someone who will challenge you, tell you the truth in love, and be the first one to offer help when you need it?
Natalie Chambers Snapp calls this kinds of friends “heart sisters” in her book by the same name. I think most people are lucky to have one or two of those kinds of friends in their lifetime, but you can greatly increase your chance of having a “heart sister” if you learn how to be one first. Snapp’s book is perfect for just that.
Heart Sisters isn’t so much about making friends as it is about recognizing the really good ones when you have them, and learning to be one yourself. Snap covers all the characteristics of a “heart sister”, things heart sisters do and don’t do. She talks about walking through conflict with heart sisters. She talks about forgiveness, and she talks about how to train our daughters to be good friends as well.
Snapp’s heart for changing the culture of female friendships to be a culture of encouragement was very clear throughout this book, and I appreciated so much of her advice! I especially appreciated everything she had to say about conflict and forgiveness, which were major themes throughout the book. I think she focused on these so much because in order to be a good heart sister, you need to know how to deal with difficult or hurtful situations when they arise - and if you handle them poorly you can lose any chance you had at forming that close friendship that might have been possible. I appreciated a lot of her advice on conflict resolution between friends, because though I’ve had to walk through it like so many women, I am not sure I have ever really read a book or article about it, and Snapp offers sound biblical wisdom on these subjects, and several others.
If you are looking for advice on how to form friendships, Heart Sisters is probably not quite the book you are looking for - but if you would like to deepen the friendships that you already have, this is the perfect book to read!
Note: I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for a review. This is my honest opinion.
The last couple months have been hard.
While we have had so many happy things to celebrate - like expecting our fourth child, and all the joy that comes with that - it seems that in every other area, things have just come crashing down. Life has been crazy, and up in the air, and messy, and stressful. I have just been powering through, but when I stop long enough to think about my emotions, I usually end up having a meltdown. Even a meltdown toward someone, which I am not proud of.
I wish I could just spill my guts and tell you everything that has been going on, because I love being transparent with you guys - you all always have such wonderful words of encouragement, and I so love that. But I feel that a couple of the situations, though they involve me, also largely involve the stories of others, and I'm not here to share their stories, just my own. Another situation, which I could share since it mainly involves me, is still touchy, and not something I feel quite at liberty to share yet. Let's just say that God is changing and rearranging, and growing me right now. And like growing pains, sometimes it just hurts.
It is ironic, because a couple months ago I sat at this same computer, and pounded out a little blurb for our local MOPS newsletter about encouraging other moms - and about how sometimes you need to think outside the box. We all know those moms who always seem to be in a rush, who are ready to tell you the truth when you ask how they are doing, and who you always think of first when someone asks you to reach out to someone who needs encouragement. You might know that woman who is obviously going through something big and painful, and it is so easy to recognize the need and reach out to those people. And by all means, you should! They do need encouragement, and you probably thought of them for a reason.
That said, I think it's important to remember that the truth is, everyone needs encouragement sometimes. Even those women who always arrive places on time, who seem to juggle multiple projects and kids effortlessly, and who are always dressed as if they are heading out the door to a photo shoot. Not that I am necessarily in all those categories. My close friends and family specifically can tell you that sometimes I am a mess, but I know from personal experience, as a person who likes to stay positive, that sometimes people overlook those who seem to have it all together.
But you don't see what happens when that person goes home. You can't see into their minds in the dark moments. Trust me, everyone needs encouragement sometimes - and even if you don't catch them at their most dire time, I haven't met a person yet who will reject a word from the heart that is meant to encourage. And if they do, then the shame should be on them.
Though I think I have hidden everything admirably (or not so admirably) well, and those who do know the whole story have been such a comfort, there have also been moments when I have received encouragement from people who I suspect had no idea I was having a rough time. I don't even know that they knew they were encouraging me. But those little gestures do a lot to soothe a heart that is hurting. Don't underestimate the power of small kindnesses.
So I wanted to share all this right now to say that you should keep your minds and hearts open when the Lord gives you the tiniest little nudge or wondering about someone you know. I suspect there are many, many people around us who are dealing with surprising and difficult struggles, and no one knows except God. So when He tries to pass the information on to you with His still, small voice . . . listen. I also know from personal experience that I have missed chances to encourage others, unknowingly right when they needed it, and I wish I could do it over.
The other day we went to pick up our van from the shop. This year, December seems to be the month for things to break. Both of our cars have broken down, Derek's computer crashed, my iPad died a sudden death, and Harvey had a horrible ear infection that resulted in his needing surgery. Then everyone got sick right before Christmas, but that is another story for another day.
Anyway, Derek jumped out of the car to get the keys to our van and walked around the corner, but in the next instant he was back, his phone pressed to his ear. He waved at me from the front of our car, pointed to his phone, and mouthed something to me.
And just like that, Derek got another job! We are starting this New Year with Derek no longer unemployed! I didn't want to say anything until the official paperwork went through, and Derek got the job offer in print a few days before Christmas!
We feel so blessed right now. The Lord has taken care of us and helped us make ends meet during the last few weeks, and now Derek will start his new job exactly two weeks after the last of his unused vacation pay comes in! His new job will be as an accountant with the state, and it sounds like it is going to be a great fit.
I can't even explain how loved we have felt over the last few weeks. From my mom buying us grocery, to my sister helping us with some expenses, to a mysterious person paying the fees for my spring semester of MOPS, I have never felt so . . . seen. Like people care about our family enough to see where we are and meet the needs we had without our even needing to ask. I totally broke down and cried the other day, just because it is a good feeling - to be seen.
I want to thank you all for your encouraging words and prayers since I posted about our situation on the blog. Sometimes I wonder if I should share some things, but I am so glad I did, because everyone's support has meant the world to me.
I just want say that through this short (Praise the Lord!) time, you all have inspired me to make sure that I am looking around me for those who might need encouragement. Sometimes people try to hold it together when they are really incredibly worried and stressed, so you might not even realize someone needs kind words or a little help until you offer it. Even if someone doesn't let on, those little gestures of love you give to someone have the power to turn a bad day into a knowledge that they are cared for - that someone sees them. That is being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around you - a reminder of His love to those who know Him, and a glimpse of His grace to those who haven't met Him yet. And that is a beautiful thing.
Sometimes I decide to talk about a problem or a struggle with someone just because I want to talk about it. And when they start to try to "fix" my problem by giving me advice, there can be that temptation to feel annoyed. But most of the time they are doing this because they hate to see me struggling, and they want to help my sorrows disappear. So they give advice. When you realize they aren't trying to boss you around, they are just trying to help you, it becomes easier to take the advice for the good intent behind it, even if it's not what you were looking for.
Sometimes people will offer advice because they have been through something similar, and they feel a connection to me. They want to talk about our shared problems or experiences, and sometimes the easiest opening to make that connection or let me know they know what I am going through is to offer a snippet of advice! When this happens, take the bait. Carry through with the conversation and make the connection.
Sometimes people give advice because they are trying to show off their vast knowledge on the subject. This usually happens with acquaintances or new friends and is one of the most annoying kinds of advice to deal with. However, I try to look at it from the other angle - they wouldn't feel the need to "show off" if they didn't think I was someone worth impressing. That's kind of flattering! The best way to deal with this motivation for advice is to say something along the lines of "Wow, that's a really good point, is that what you do/did?" or "Interesting, tell me more", and try to take the conversation more in the direction of personal stories. Then you can share experiences and advice back and forth without feeling like you are being lectured.
At the same time, I don't assume every time someone tries to give me advice they are trying to show off. That can lead to unnecessary annoyance. The motives behind the advice are more likely one of the first two. I always assume it's one of the first two motives listed here until it becomes obvious that it's motive #3.
Strange people you see in the mall really shouldn't be telling you what to do, unless it's along the lines of "You are blessed, enjoy your life!" (which is probably the most common stranger advice, especially when they see your cute babies). When Wyatt was a month or two old some lady at Joann's told me I was holding him wrong. But actually Wyatt was just trying to look at the lights (he's always loved lights). Annoying? Yes, this is probably the type of advice that is truly annoying with no real redeeming factors. But it's not something to dwell on. Your blood pressure will thank you if you just learn to dismiss it.
People can give me all the advice they want, but in the end I pray about it, and I decide what's going to work best for me or my family. I'm not obligated to take any specific advice, especially the advice given by random people at the store. And those who love me are going to support me whatever I decide. That knowledge is freeing and makes the advice less frustrating. I've learned to listen to the advice, to consider it because a multitude of counselors is a good thing, and to have confidence in the final decisions I make.
This goes back to the week we got back from our honeymoon. Someone who is close to me noticed that I kept correcting parts of the story when Derek was telling about the different things we saw on our trip, and they advised me not to do that and just let Derek tell the story his way. It annoyed me at the time, but two years later I read something that reminded me of that conversation, and I realized that person was right. It was silly of me to keep correcting Derek on things that didn't matter - it was disrespectful and sent the message that Derek was getting everything wrong. I vowed right then to listen to the advice that was given me in the future and try not to be immediately annoyed, because even if I disagreed at the moment the wisdom could become more apparent to me later.
Some people are controlling. Some people are trying to push their agendas. Some people are insulting you personally and hide their insults behind "advice". I try to give people the benefit of a doubt, but I think if you suspect that this may be the reason behind someone's "advice", you should run their comments by someone you trust. If you feel like someone is being controlling or manipulative, it's okay to respectfully stand your ground and refuse to accept the hurtful words.
The other day Wyatt was taking a nap, and I decided to turn on the TV to see what was on. And for those of you who have been reading for a while, yes, we got cable back! It was really good to take a break from it for a year, and we probably will take another break in the future - but there is so much going on this year, like the Olympics and the election, and we decided to get cable again for now.
Anyway, I came across this show about women who hide their pregnancies, so I decided to see what it was all about. But one of the stories stood out.
One of the girls on the show decided to hide her pregnancy because a few months before she had a son that was stillborn. And when she shared this heartbreaking news on Facebook, hoping for some support, she got a grand total of 6 responses. Out of 300 Facebook friends.
I found that to be so sad, and I honestly didn't blame her a bit for not wanting to share the happy news of her pregnancy after getting no support from her "friends" on Facebook or in real life. I'm not sure I would want to share anything for a while after something like that either.
And it got me thinking - is this what the world is coming to? A place where people can't muster up the energy (or even just the courtesy) to reach outside of Facebook in the face of a tragedy? Worse than that, that these people couldn't even reach out properly within the confines of Facebook? I find that so disturbing.
One thing that I dislike about Facebook is the fact that it does promote apathy when it comes to friendships. It's one of the reasons I took a Facebook break not long ago, and why I limit what I share on it now. I don't like the thought of someone just checking my Facebook page to see what I've been doing when they could call or e-mail me directly. If they want to feel like they are interacting with me, the only effort they have to put out is one click on the "Like" button.
I think it creates a false sense of friendship, one where someone can get all the benefits of knowing what is going on with their "friend" without having to put out any actual effort to find out. Where they can feel like they are being a "friend" to someone without doing anything but clicking a couple times and hitting a few keys.
Obviously there are exceptions to this, like in the blogging world (all of our interaction is online by necessity!), or in the case of people who combine Facebook interaction with real life interaction, which I think is good.
But it is not fine to see something so tragic happen to your friend and comment on Facebook but never follow up with them in real life to see how they are doing. It is not fine to see an announcement of something so tragic and be so lazy in your friendship that you can't even take the time to type out an "I'm so sorry."
That is not okay. That is not a friendship. And it frustrates me that someone could have the nerve to call themselves a friend to someone when they can't even be there, in the flesh, when they are needed most.
At the end of the show this girl reconnects with her friends, tells them the truth, and it appears that these friendships are on the road to healing after that. And I'm sure they probably did reach some level of trust again. But I don't think those people can ever reach the level in their friendship with this girl that they could have reached if they had just been there for her in the face of tragedy. They've forever missed that chance. And that is sad.
I guess I say all this to remind you (and me) to take the time to be an outside-of-Facebook friend to someone this week. Because the people who can reach outside of social media to touch someone else are the ones that are the true gems in the midst of all the people that social networks call our "friends".
I don't want to just be a digital version of someone's "friend". I want to be a supportive-on-social-media-and-in-real-life, all-in, gem of a friend to someone.
I want to be a friend worth having.