Wednesday, May 24, 2017

It's not you, it's me. (Why I think I have a hard time opening up)

Does anyone else struggle with being open with others?  I’m not just talking about being open and transparent with friends or acquaintances…but with people who are close to you, like close friends and family, your “people”?  Well, maybe I’m the only one who struggles with this.

I think part of it goes back to high school, when I had a boyfriend who, I thought, I was pretty crazy about.  I also a had a really good friend.  I’d go so far to call her my BFF, except for the little fact that my boyfriend cheated on me with her, at Prom.  I think that’s when I realized that I couldn’t really trust people.  Or, at least that I couldn’t trust people without the risk of getting hurt.  Perhaps I should have realized that sooner, but I was naive until then.  So, I just kind of stopped trusting people.  Stopped being vulnerable.  Stopped being close with people.  (Except for my mama, who I’ve always been close with!)

I wish I could say that kept me from ever being hurt again….but it didn’t.

Fast forward to going away to and loving college, but being ready to move on by the end it and moving back home for a job.  Then finding the love of my life, getting married and moving back to my college town where he was finishing up grad school.  Then we moved across the country for his post-doc and five years later we moved back across the country to, ironically, the same town we went to college in.  We love this town.  But, coming and leaving, and coming back and leaving and coming back again…makes for an….interesting dynamic to say the least. 

I’m not sure if all that story is entirely what accounts for my inability to open up to others, but I’m sure it is part of it.  I guess the other usual suspects of insecurity, shame, guilt, etc.… are also factors.  I was made very aware of the fact that it can be hurtful for me to not be open even with my closest people a few months ago.  I guess I had kind of lived in denial of my tendencies until then.  

Maybe it’s all because there is SO much going on inside my head that I’m afraid that people won’t understand me.  So, I’d rather just sit back, and be “normal” and very guarded.

Maybe it’s because I just have a super tough time trusting people.

Maybe it’s because this life can be really lonely.  It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one who has been “there”, no matter where “there” was.

Maybe it’s because I have a challenging time believing that I’m not a burden.

Maybe it’s because I don’t like parts of my past, the hurts, the disappointments, etc. and I’d rather not rehash them?  (At least until I'm ready?)  Whether they happened 20 years ago, 11 years ago or last month.

Maybe it’s because I am insecure.

Maybe it’s just the way I am?

It’s a coping mechanism.  I know.  I am aware of it.  I am working on it.  And I am more proud of who I have become DESPITE things I’ve been through and who I am in Christ.  So, I guess sometimes, I just feel like the past is better left in the past.  I hope that helps you to understand a bit more about me, or people like me. 

It’s really not you, it’s me. 

(And, if you were wondering, yes, I still find it easier to open up online than to a person face to face.  I can’t really explain it.)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Four ways we are striving to be more intentional with money

As you probably already know, and might be sick of hearing, we took Financial Peace University recently and it completely changed the way we think about and handle money!  I feel like we kind of went from "where did all our money go?" to "this is where our money is going!" every month.  Which may not sound like much to you.  But for us, it has been HUGE!  I want to be intentional in every area of our lives, so money is a great place to be intentional too.

1.     Emergency Fund

In Financial Peace University Dave Ramsey has these 7 baby steps.  The first is a little $1000 emergency fund.  I call it little not because I don't think that $1000 is a lot, because I do, but because a "full" emergency fund is 3-6 months of expenses that is Step 3 though.  Anyway, step 2 is to pay off all debt except your house if you have one.  Then you move on to the full emergency fund, and house down payment in 3 a & b.  Like that saying “It's not a matter of if but when” for a disaster, emergency or other big expense to come up.  The Emergency Fund is intended as an insurance policy NOT a savings account.

2.      Paying off debt. (and other baby steps) 

I guess I always kind of thought we'd have our student loans or some sort of debt payments, so we were saving up aggressively for a down payment for a house up until January.  Then we started this class and it changed the way we think.  We decided to use most of what we'd saved up for a house to pay off all our student loans and some of the car loan we still had.  We are poised to pay off the rest of our car (that we bought two years old in January 2016) at the beginning of June.  From there, we’ll finish off our full emergency fund (Baby Step 3a) and begin saving aggressively for our Down Payment for a house (Baby Step 3b) that we hope to purchase in the spring/summer of 2018. 

3.     Budget-telling your money where to go.

I really kind of hate to admit this, but Jesse and I never really lived on a budget until February, like as in a few months ago.  I mean, we'd plan out what we wanted to spend on groceries, etc... but when some categories got overspent we'd just sort of give up and just check our bank balance.  If there was money we'd go to the store.  If there wasn't, we wouldn’t.  Or if we really needed some food or gas or something, we’d put it on the credit card and pay that off as soon as we got paid again.  We were very much living paycheck to paycheck.  (Not that we aren't now...but I'll get to that in a minute.)

We have been using EveryDollar for our budgets, like I’ve mentioned before.  We’ve been keeping a zero-based budget, for the last four months and that’s where every dollar and cent is accounted for.  I love the way that EveryDollar has it set up with categories like this:  Income, Giving, Saving, Housing, Transportation, Food, Health and ‘Lifestyle’ which is basically everything else (clothes, haircuts, misc.…).  It makes it so easy to budget for things and to rearrange when life happens.

4.     Sinking funds.

We have been using a ‘sinking fund’ as Dave calls it for years for regular bigger expenses like car insurance.  Now we even have a place in our budget for a vacation sinking fund for any trips we’d like to take and Christmas gift sinking fund.  A Sinking fund is where you take the amount you need for something, like say your car insurance is $600 every 6 months (or $1200 a year).  You divide that total by how many months you have to save for it, which would be $100 a month, and then you put that in a special savings account and use it for just that.  When the bill comes around you already have the $600 ready for the bill!  Makes those bills so much less stressful. 

Now, I do have to admit that there was one place we strayed from Dave's plan a little.  We did cut up our credit cards (they didn't have any balances on them anyway) one of the first weeks of the class but when we took our nest egg to pay off debts we saved some of it for a bit bigger of an initial emergency fund so that we felt comfortable not relying on using a credit card even just to carry us from month to month.  Dave would likely disagree with what we did here.  We did it because that way we knew we'd have peace of mind and be able to not fall back into the trap of credit cards.  We also knew we'd be able to pay off all our debts in about four months still.  So for us, that just worked. 

Have you taken FPU?  If you are interested in taking the class here is a link to where it is offered near you!  What has been most helpful to you in changing the way you think about and handle money?  What would you add to this?

***I’m not getting paid to recommend any of this stuff!  (Because no one knows who I am!)  It has just completely changed the way we think about and handle money, so I wanted to share some of this with you!***

Friday, May 19, 2017

Where do you find your identity?

Whenever we try to find our identity or worth in something other than where it truly is we come up short.   It doesn’t matter what you do.  If you’re working mom, a stay at home mom, a career professional, a pro athlete, a student, an avid reader or playwright.  When you look to things that are temporary for your worth and identity it will always come up short.  There will always be someone who is smarter, faster, more talented, more successful or better than you.  And that doesn’t actually matter.  There will also be scores of people who are worse than you, which also doesn’t matter.

Do you know what does matter?  Eternity.  Eternity matters.

Do you know whose opinion matters?  Hint:  it’s not your teachers, bosses, friends, coaches or even your parents.  It’s God.    

You know the best part though?  Is that God already loves you.  There isn’t anything you could do to take that away.  There isn’t anything you could do to earn it. 

Before I have some angry mamas or papas writing me.  Of course, their opinion matters, to some extent.  At the end of the day, at the end of our lives (whenever that comes) there is only one who holds it all—and it is His opinion that matters and inevitably what you decide to do with it that will determine your eternity.

There are two options: 
1.       Believe His opinion of you, cherish it and put your faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection which was the ultimate way for God to show His love for us. 
2.       Reject it.

When we choose option 1, we accept God’s opinion as the only one we strive for and listen to.  We’re daughters and sons of the King!  We’re beautiful, cared for, loved and full of hope for the future.  We know that we'll spend our eternity with Him.  Option 2 is a lot more grim, relying on this world to satisfy which it never could even come close to doing and being separated from God forever.

  • When we look to this world to make us feel loved, we may feel that way for a while but it is always fleeting.  People will disappoint. 
  • When we look to this world for encouragement, it all fades too.
  • When we look to this world for enjoyment, there is only the temporary game, book, movie or relationship…
  • When we look to this world for our value, we realize we are easily dispensable.
  • When we look to this world for acceptance, that too is only temporary, with strings attached.
  • When we look to this world for answers, we come up with far more questions.
There are things we can definitely enjoy while spending our time on this earth-definitely.  I’m talking about where we find our identity, our worth and our true sense of joy.  It’s when we look on the face of God through His word that things start to come together.  We realize:

  • We have purpose. (Eph. 2:10, Hebrews 11)
  • We have strength. (Phil. 4:13, Eph. 3:14-19)
  • We are seen and known. (Psalm 139, Luke 12:6-7)
  • We are loved. (John 3:16, Eph. 3:17-19)
  • We have hope and a future. (Jer.29:11, Rom. 8:28)
  • We are not alone. (Josh. 1:8-9, Rom. 8:31-38)
  • We have identity in Christ. (Gal. 2:20, John 1:12)

I’m a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mom – yes.  But I’m first and foremost a child of God.  A Christian.  I’m a sinner saved by grace, who has been forgiven and blessed more than I could ever imagine by the Creator the Universe.  When I look to this world or what I do to fulfill me, it will always disappoint.  When I look to God and who He says I am, there I find my identity.  My joy.  My hope.  My life.

Whether or not you get that promotion.  Whether or not you make the sales quota.  Whether or not you get into the school you wanted to.  Whether or not you make it Pro.  Whether or not you get married or have kids.  Whether or not you _____________.  You are loved.  You are known.  You matter.  Life will always have ups and downs friends, but when we find our identity in Christ rather than this world, it makes it all a lot more bearable!  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Some of our current favorite books featuring kids of color

My son and I had a great time at Story time at the library this morning and then picked out some books to check out.  (And just so you don't we are those perfect people who make it to every story time, and make it there on time and in good spirits--just know that today is the first time we've made it to one early, found a parking place and actually stayed the whole time with no meltdowns!  Yay! #reallife #momlife)  We found three to add to our favorites featuring kids of color!  Woot!  Here are a few of our faves including three finds at the bottom!

My husband and I try to seek out mentors, friends and barbers, etc who are people of color for our son to look up to.  We also are intentional with the books we choose to bring into our home.  Yes, you'll find lots of classics that may only have white characters, but you'll also find multicultural books and books of families of color.  Because, we live in a diverse world and we are a diverse, transracial family.  Even if you don't have a transracial family I highly recommend these books because your kids will have friends, family, etc who look different than them too.  

Just like it's important for my son to have racial mirrors in real life and in books, it's important for everyone to have books (and friends) that are diverse and feature people from of all colors, shapes and sizes.

Buy on Amazon
I am pretty sure I've talked about this one before, because it was one of the first books we got when we decided to adopt transracially.  It's great, has silly and cute illustrations and overall has you embrace your differences!  Love it.

Buy on Amazon
I likely featured this back in January when we got it, but this series is awesome and this one about MLK doesn't dissappoint!  It covers the major things about who Dr.  Martin Luther Kind Jr was, what he stood for and how he did what he did.  Plus the big head and little body people, are

Buy on Amazon
Denene Millner's newest book and it's ggreat!  You may know her name from her popular blog My Brown Baby, or all the other books she's written.  This one features a girl as the main character who is about to sing for Church.  Her borhter, mother and father are all there too.  And the illustrations are spot on and amazing even down to the details in the hair.  

Buy on Amazon
Written by Misty Copeland, the famous and super talented black ballerina.  Yes it's about a ballerina, but not just any.  And ok, maybe i got more for me than my son at the library today.  But it's amazingly well done.  

Buy on Amazon
Super cute peekaboo book!  This cover reminds me of my son before his first haircut. (tear)

Buy on Amazon
Super fun book about all the family loving this baby so much.  

There are no affiliate links or anything here.  These are just some of our favorite books right now that feature kids of color that I wanted to share with you and I provided links to be helpful.   We bought them from amazon or checked them out from the library.

Monday, May 15, 2017

13 Reasons Why NOT

(This is written in response to the new show 13 Reasons Why on Netflix.)

I don't know where you are right now.  And I certainly don’t know what’s going on in your life.  Maybe everything is going well right now.  But maybe it’s not.  Maybe your spouse just told you they are leaving.  Or your girlfriend broke up with you.  Maybe your parents are ill.  Maybe you just feel alone.  Maybe you feel afraid.  Maybe you are being bullied.  Or otherwise feel hopeless.

In short
1.     You matter.
2.     You are unique.
3.     You are irreplaceable.
4.     Your story is still being written.
5.     You were created for a purpose.
6.     Things in this life are temporary.
7.     You are not alone.
8.     You are brave.
9.     You can’t see the forest through the trees.
10.  You are strong.
11.  You can change the future.
12.  You are known.
13.  You are loved.

1.  You matter.  You are more than just some number or name.  You are a person.  You are someone’s child.  Someone’s friend.  Someone’s student.  Someone.  You are a person.  A human being.  A soul.

2.  You are unique.  You may think that you want to be just like everyone else or just want to ‘fit in’ but you are the only one like you.  You aren’t a copy.  You’re an original.  An individual.

3.  You are irreplaceable.  Since you are one of a kind, there’s not another who could replace you.  Ever.

4.  Your story is still being written.  Tomorrow is a new day and although it may not change much, it will be at least a little different.  A little better.  Give it one more day.  Then give it one more day after that. 

5.  You were created for a purpose.  I can’t exactly tell you what that purpose is, because I am still trying to find out my own.  But as you learn and grow, you’ll find out just who you were created to be.  Even born leaders had to grow up and go through hard times. 

6.  Things in this life are temporary.  Friends come and go.  You won’t be in school forever.  Family may even come and go.  But so will bad things and good things in your life.  Again, give it one more day.  Then give it one more day after that.  We can really only live one day at a time anyway.

7.  You are not alone.  It can feel like it when you are in the middle of hard circumstances, but you’re not.  Others have likely been in a similar place before and made it through.  Sometimes you have to be the one to speak up though.  Reach out and hang out with someone, or go to a Church, Moms group, College group, Singles group, Bible Study, or other meetings where you can connect with people similar to you.

8.  You are braveOnly you can make the choice to change your life.  If you are in an unhealthy relationship, seek counsel.  If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, talk about it with someone.  If you are depressed, reach out and get help -- you don't have to go at this alone.  Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

9.  You can’t see the forest through the trees.  No matter if you are 15 or 50, it’s easy to get caught up in the details of life and not see the whole picture.  Instead of focusing on what is going wrong right now, the bills you can’t afford to pay, or the kids making fun of you.  You can make up classes.  Bankruptcy happens and isn’t the end.  (Millionaire Dave Ramsey once had to file!)  Relationships come and go.  Even when we take a step back we can’t see the whole picture because we are just one person in a much grander scheme.  Try to gain some perspective and reach out to a parent, teacher or friend for help. 

10.  You are strong.  Struggles and Challenges help shape you.  If everything always went well, you wouldn’t be the born fighter you are.  If you never were challenged you wouldn’t know how to overcome.  Each obstacle helps grow and shape you into the person you are becoming.  We also can’t see every battle someone is fighting.

11.  You can change the future!  Be a listening ear to those in need.  Help others overcome.  Help others realize their full potential.  Help others see they are not alone.  You can’t change the past, but you can change the future and make new history.  If you are here for it.

12.  You are known.  You are seen.  You may not feel like it right now, but it is true.  You are known and seen by the Creator.  Just like you were made with a purpose, you are known.  He’s knows your past, present and future. 

13.  Last, but certainly not least, You are loved.  Hopefully evidently by the people around you, but undeniably by God.  In fact, He loved you so much, even though we had all sinned and separated ourselves from Him, that He sent His only Son to earth to be born of a virgin and later die on a cross for the sins of the whole world.  Just so, as it was written He was raised in three days and the veil was torn.  We have a direct line, a direct way to God now, through Jesus.  

Reach out if you or someone you know is thinking of hurting themselves.  Talk to a friend, a mentor, a parent or find a counselor at your school, college or your Church.  If you or someone you know is actively suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

It's OK to have mixed feelings about Mothers Day

Throwback pic to just after I was born and the first pic of us as a family of five. 
Mothers Day is on Sunday.  I have a few thoughts to share about that day and I want to start by thanking my Mom.  The one who gave me life, and love and taught me almost everything I know.  The one who stayed up countless nights waiting for me to get home from play practice or dates.  The woman who was my confidant and best friend.  The one I could always count on.  The one I hated to disappoint, but always knew she’d be there no matter what.  She’s amazing.  She’s a lover and a fighter.  She’s the strongest woman I know.  Even looking cancer in the face she stayed strong.  So thankful for such an awesome mom.  I wish that everyone could have a mama like her, or even a friend like her.
One of my all time favorite pics of my beautiful mama.
(Taken by me on the Outer Banks of NC in 2014)
I’m also super thankful for the woman who raised my husband, the love of my life. I still have such mixed feelings about Mothers Day though.  I suppose it started around the time we started “trying” for a baby.  There were so many months that I would wait and see if it was going to be the one where we got pregnant.  I would buy pregnancy tests from the dollar store because I always had a supply in my dresser drawer and let’s face it, that was a way cheaper way to buy them.  If I was a day late, I’d test just to be disappointed again.  
Looking back, I am kind of glad that we were blissfully clueless of our infertility at that time.  I suppose I had some suspicion, but I’d also heard that it just took some couples longer to conceive than others.  It was difficult to see seemingly everyone around me, including my sisters and friends with their growing bellies and families and…me with another negative result, but we kept it to ourselves.  Very few people in our lives even knew we were trying, much less how long we had been hoping for a little one. 
We’d always planned on adopting, and since we didn’t see any reason to postpone anymore (only reason we had ever postponed it was because we didn't know how long we'd be living in CO and then NC), we started pursuing in 2014.  Cue the fundraising and the wait that ended up being pretty short really.  Then in 2015 I became a mama and came that bittersweet first Mothers Day.  “A child born to another woman calls me mommy.  The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”  (Jody Landers quote) 

Then a few months later I got the long awaited big fat positive.  I was pregnant.  Then we lost the baby.  The we were diagnosed with infertility but so, so thankful for the babe in my arms who called(s) me mama.  I still think that one of the most thoughtful things someone said came very unexpectedly from my maternal grandmother when I called her the day I became a mama.  She said, "I know you're happy, you've been waiting so long for this moment."  She was so right.
My first selfie as a mama.
It’s been quite the adventure to motherhood and while there were times that were heartbreaking, God and my husband have been there by my side the whole time.  I think about the what if’s sometimes, and I think that’s normal.  But I focus on the reasons I’m thankful.  Thankful for my Mom, my husband, my son.  Thankful for my son’s birth mother.  Thankful to have been chosen to raise him.  Thankful to have a story and a life to live.  Thankful for all the many blessing that far outweigh all the bad stuff.
Mothers Day is bittersweet for me, but I often think of those who also have trouble with this time of year.
Those who have lost their husbands or wives.
Those who are single parents.
Those who have lost their mothers.
Those who have lost a child at any age.
Those who have placed a child for adoption.
Those who long to be mothers.
Those who are pregnant.
Those who are waiting for the big fat positive.
Those struggling with infertility.
Those waiting to be matched.
Those struggling marriages.
Those underappreciated, overworked mamas.

Let’s pray for all the women we come into contact with this week.  We don’t know the battle she is fighting, but more than likely she’s fighting one.  Let’s encourage one another.  Let’s tell those mamas and women they are doing a great job.  Let’s spur them on.  Let's also just remember to breathe in and out.  It's totally ok to have mixed feelings about a day that was created to help celebrate our Mothers, but also just brings up a lot of hard stuff.  Happy Mothers Day, whether you are a mama right now or not.  You are loved.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Life Lesson I learned from my 2 year old

This kid loves to run and play sports.  (And do just about everything else!  He's 2!)  He's already so coordinated it's fun to see him play basketball and catch.   

One thing my sweet, life loving son has taught me is:  just because you may be far from your goal doesn't have to discourage you.  He’s around 37” which is pretty tall for a 2 year old, and as you can see, he's still a ways from a regulation basketball hoop.  

But the thing is that he doesn't realize that.  His height doesn’t keep him from trying.  It doesn’t discourage him.  It doesn't mean he can't try to make it in.  It doesn't mean he can't have a great time trying.  And it doesn't mean that he can't just have fun playing the game.

Little J just looks up and goes for it.  He sees what he wants, and does his best to play basketball even on the big courts.  He runs with all his might, sort of dribbling the ball down the court and then he shoots.  He just does it.  He gives it his all and doesn't worry about the outcome.  He enjoys the moment.  He enjoys seeing the ball fly in the air and chasing after it after it comes back down.  He enjoys getting out of breath from playing.  He soaks it in, because he's obsessed with basketball.  Or dasketgall, as he says it.  It's usually the first and last thing out of his mouth every day and said about a million times in between.  

He doesn’t realize that he is WAY shorter than an adult who normally plays with that height of hoop.  He doesn’t let that get in the way of him pursuing something he loves.

What if we all had a bit of that attitude and perspective?!? 

What if we didn't try to understand and question everything before even attempting?

What if we trusted God and His plan for our lives even when we don't have all the answers?

What if we set high goals?  

What if we served others selflessly?

What if we dreamed limitlessly? ( I like to try to make up works...)

What if we loved fearlessly?

What if we prayed BIG?

What if?

I imagine it would be a bit of a different world than we currently live in.  Let's try it!   Start a new job?  Ask someone out on a date?  Move to a different state?  Write a book?  Start a family?  Adopt a child?  Go back to school?  Invite someone new over for dinner?  Pray for that thing that you've been stressing over?  What is something you would do if you weren't worried about the outcome? 

Little man got a chance to shoot hoops with some real basketball players about a month ago and had a great time too.  This one even helped him make it in. So sweet.

I wrote another post about "What if" about a year ago and while it was a bit of a different topic it holds true here too.  This is from that post:  

"We can trust that God has a plan for exactly where we are, where we're going and where we've been.  He's using those challenges and journeys to shape you into who you are.  If you are still breathing (which would be everyone reading this!) He's not finished with you yet.  We are all a work in progress and there is beauty in the ashes."