One Thing at a Time

I am often overwhelmed at the sheer volume of information that is available for us to take in on a daily basis, particularly via the Internet. Sometimes I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed of links, shared articles, blogs, and videos and I wonder how anyone ever effectively communicates anything anymore. As soon as the information appears in front of us, it’s gone and something else takes its place. We are inundated at every turn with 12 steps for this and a remedy for that and a video that promises you’ve never seen anything like this before. There is a BuzzFeed list for every imaginable scenario under the sun like “27 Things Zombies and Puppies Have in Common” or “41 Things You Never Knew About Ponytails” or perhaps you’ve always wanted to see what men in Disney cartoons would look like without beards. That’s a real one, by the way.

Everything has to be extreme to grab our attention because so many things are competing. So usually the title will be something like: “Blind Kitten Rescues Boy From Frozen Lake…But You Won’t Believe What Happens Next…” I bet I will believe it. Other examples of gross exaggeration in titling include any use of the following phrases:

“This will leave you speechless.” (If you mean that I’ll never admit to another person I actually took the time to watch that video, then you’re right.)

“This will be the most inspiring thing you see all day.” (That one was actually in reference to a video about a husky puppy learning to howl. I bet it won’t be the  most inspiring thing I see all day. At least I hope not.)

“This will bring you to tears.” (Nope. Ok, unless it’s an Olympics commercial. Then, maybe.)

The real problem though is that we see hundreds or maybe thousands of these messages every single day. Each one is competing for our attention. Each one promises better, more interesting, more applicable information than the one before. And we read the article or watch the video and then we move on to the next and the next. How much do we soak in? How much do we really digest? What sticks? (Here’s a great piece from Seth Godin on this: Trapped by tl;dr)

This is why there is and will always be immeasurable value in reading an actual book. A book takes time. Online, we read a 750 word article about the latest, juiciest topic of conversation and then immediately click another link to see pictures of cats wearing bow ties. Our brains can only do that so many times before turning to mush (this is clearly based on hard scientific data).

But a book has a singular focus. An overarching message. It takes the reader on a journey from point A to point B. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction. The significance of the book is the investment of time the reader must make. A book moves the reader along a path of discovery. You have to make a commitment to read a book; you must carve time out of your busy schedule. You must choose to concentrate on one topic, one story for an extended amount of time. This is not how the majority of things in our culture today operate. We like fast. We like immediate results. We like instant gratification. Books can provide none of these things. They take time. Maybe hours, maybe days, maybe weeks. Or in the case of some very excellent fiction series, they could take years.

Instead of 750 words on a topic, you get 60,000. You get to sit with the words, soak them in, highlight them. Put them on the shelf and then reread them later. You’re not distracted by whatever else is popping up in your newsfeed. You get to slow down and think about this one thing. Love. Marriage. Redemption. The faithfulness of God. The pain of loss. Mystery. The Civil War. Hobbits. Elves. You name it.

Try it. Find a good book. (I can recommend a few.) Find a quiet space. Make some time. Turn off the noise. Discover something slowly. One thing at a time.

Note: I completely see and understand the irony of blogging about the overabundance of information on the Internet and essentially adding to the noise. To that I offer the age old wisdom of “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” In other words, don’t throw your Internet service provider out the window. Just pick up a book every now and then and enjoy a change of pace.

All I Really Need to Know, I Learned at Camp

Click here to find out how to be a FUGE staffer and have a seriously life-changing experience this summer. Or pass that link along to a college student/young adult that you know. Interviews are going on now. I could list hundreds of things that I learned over the years. Here are just a few:

1. People want to be known and heard. They will tell their story to a complete stranger if they know you are listening.

2. Despite popular belief, it is better to ask permission, than forgiveness. Permission is God-honoring and asking forgiveness can be downright awkward.

3. Emergency rooms at 2 a.m. are a mixture of sickness, sadness and a good deal of humor, which is magnified when you go to the emergency room dressed as a pirate.

4. On that note, costumes make almost any social situation more fun.

5. When conflict is handled well, the relationship is always stronger.

6. Some objects, despite their size and difficulty in transporting, do not sink.

7. Others have come before you and others will come after you. Honor the ones who went before and leave a legacy for those who will come after.

8. You cannot safely “bob” for anything in a pan full of flour.

9. Life-change happens best in the context of relationships. (Credit to FUGE Camps)

10. Somewhere, somehow, there’s always a kid with a guitar.

11. It never hurts to ask.

12. Sabbath day rest is holy and wonderful.

13. Once you’ve dropped the rental van keys in the toilet of a gas station bathroom, you are officially the designated driver for the rest of the trip.

14. Wendy’s is not capable of producing 40 frosty’s at one time.

15. People will probably never see 90% of the work that you do. It still has to be done.

16. Someone equals you. In other words, if “someone” needs to take out the trash…

17. There is such a thing as a stupid question.

18. Tired is relative.

19. Good is not the same as great. Excellence takes hard work.

20. God uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect plan.

What would you add to the list?

What You Do When You’re a Compulsive Perfectionist

Compulsive: Someone who feels compelled to do certain things.

Perfectionist: A person who is displeased by anything that does not meet very high standards.

Here are two things you need to know about me. One, I’m not crafty. Two, I’m so not crafty that I recently attempted a project that required using superglue with toilet paper rolls, which are more or less paper, and I basically accomplished nothing but gluing my fingers together. Multiple times. So essentially, I’m so bad at crafts that I cannot superglue paper together. So knowing this, here’s what you do when you’re a compulsive perfectionist:

It starts with your only child and their quickly approaching first birthday, which of course, should be perfect. So balloons just won’t do. You need to make something. Those puff balls that people make out of tissue paper are so cute.

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How hard can that be? So you purchase the supplies and get to work.

Then you think maybe you got the wrong kind of paper.

Then you go back to The Dollar Tree (where all real crafters shop, obviously) and buy different paper.

Then you think maybe you still got the wrong kind of paper.

Then you cut the paper you have into varying sizes.

Then you think maybe you need something different to tie it with. And different paper.

Then you bravely decide to go to Hobby Lobby (on a Saturday afternoon with your almost one-year-old who has just had the time of her life at a birthday party but is now quickly growing louder in expressing her desire to go home).

Then you have the brilliant idea of taking one of her favorite toys into the store. It’s a precious little owl that her daddy picked out and it hooks onto the shopping cart so she can’t throw it on the ground over and over and over. And over. This will guarantee enough shopping time to identify why the puff ball experiment has gone so epically wrong so far.

Then you spend a good 10 minutes deliberating over colors and patterns on paper plates, cups and napkins only to decide to purchase them later at, yes, The Dollar Tree – because you hate to waste money.

Then you realize you’ve now lost 10 minutes of “happy baby shopping time”.

Then you make your way over and through aisles containing 1,372 kinds of thread and other tying devices, 64 colors of tissue paper, 589 styles of card stock, cake decorating tips, cake toppers, party favors, ribbon, balloons, streamers…wait, what did you come to Hobby Lobby for again? (This is the “compulsive” part.)

Then “happy baby shopping time” is definitely over.

Then you quickly make your selections and head to the front of the store. You are confident that this time the puff balls will be a success.

Then you load your purchases into the car and make your way back home with a relatively still happy baby and you debate whether or not that happiness will last long enough to go to the Dollar Tree and pick up those paper plates, cups and napkins.

Then your relatively happy baby is increasingly less happy and you say, “Honey, play with your owl that you love.”

Then your heart sinks because the owl that she loves (that her daddy picked out and bought her) is most definitely still hanging out on the Hobby Lobby shopping cart. All cute and alone.

Then you call daddy frantically and tell him that you’ve left the cute little owl at Hobby Lobby, but you are already almost back home and is it worth it to go back and get it? And he is patient and explains that “it’s just a toy” and “she has other toys” and it is indeed not worth the trip back to Hobby Lobby. And you reluctantly accept this answer. It would take 30 minutes minimum to get to Hobby Lobby and back, dangerously cutting into baby dinner time and it would cost almost as much in gas as you paid for the owl in the first place and remember you don’t like to waste money. But isn’t it wasting money to leave the toy at Hobby Lobby? No, he’s right, it’s not worth it. He’s right. He’s right.

But the owl is so cute. And she loves it. And her daddy picked it out for her. And it’s so handy in shopping situations because, well, it hooks onto the shopping cart (the very trait that caused its demise). And it’s so cute. Nope, he’s right.

Then you try to forget about the owl, but might lose a tiny bit of sleep over it that weekend.

Then you leave work on Monday afternoon and think, “Hobby Lobby is on my way home. Maybe the owl is still there.” And you call and it’s there and you are on your way to pick it up.

(Then you almost run out of gas because it’s 20 cents cheaper per gallon at the Rivergate exit versus downtown and, remember, you hate to waste money.)

Then you return to Hobby Lobby and are reunited with the owl. And while you’re there, you pick up balloons because you’ve finally accepted the reality that the puff balls are not going to happen. Which is a small victory in your compulsive perfectionist ways because you are accepting defeat.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

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Precious Moments (and we’re not talking little pastel colored figurines)

Well, I actually am going to talk about those little figurines for a minute. I’ll go ahead and admit that I own exactly one. It’s a nativity scene with a child kneeling beside the manger looking at baby Jesus. Maybe he’s giving a gift to baby Jesus? Anyway, it was a gift from Michael’s great-grandmother Alice who owns approximately 273 of the little figurines (give or take). I do faithfully take it out every year at Christmas and this year it looked pretty cute on the shelf in Abigail’s room, I must say.

If you’re not familiar with these little statues of smiling cherubs, here’s the deal. There are thousands of them to choose from. They are intended to commemorate special times in your life or the life of your child or perhaps represent some special interest or hobby. So you could find a little statue of a small boy fishing with his dad or a girl going off to school for the first time. You can choose from children building a snowman, skipping girls holding baskets or a boy throwing a football. And then you’ve got your major life events like graduation, marriage, first baby, anniversaries and so on. Since Abigail is coming up on her first birthday in just a few weeks, this particular one made me laugh out loud today:

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Why is this funny? Because this moment will never happen. There is no way that Abigail will ever sit that close to her cake without diving in with both hands, unless mom and dad are literally holding her arms behind her back. And then she might just stick her face right in it. Yes, it’s sweet and cute. Just not realistic. This one is a little better although if you’ve seen Abigail eat this kid is still about ten times cleaner:

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Of course there’s nothing at all wrong with these adorable little porcelain friends. They commemorate important moments in life that we want to remember! But when I think about what they represent, I can’t help but think that those types of “precious moments” can be few and far between. Birthdays are significant, but they happen once a year. Learning to ride a bike is a milestone but there’s a lot of life on either side of that day. Bringing home a baby from the hospital is one of the single most life-changing events there is – but it’s still just one day of thousands and it comes and goes surprisingly fast. You’ll have about 6,570 more of those days just by the time they turn 18.

I’ll admit, I’m often tempted to gauge life by what major milestone Abigail is accomplishing and then try to rush her on to the next one. You’re rolling over, great, now let’s start crawling. You’ve started eating finger foods and like peas and corn ok, let’s try steak! (This is real life.) Ok, you’ve been playing around with this walking thing for three weeks now, let’s take some serious steps! Hurry up and turn one year old so we can please stop buying expensive formula!

But then I have times like Sunday afternoon where it’s just us at the house and she’s eating black beans and corn (and, ok, maybe french fries too) and she’s loving every minute of it and waving her arms in the air after every bite. And we laugh and she throws corn at Amos the dog and then smiles at me because she knows she did something she’s not supposed to do. And that is a truly precious moment. And that is what makes up the bulk of our days. Eating, giving baths, reading books, picking up toys, playing with the dog, cleaning up after dinner, changing diapers…This is what we do day in and day out. It’s not glamorous. It probably doesn’t deserve a commemorative porcelain figurine. But it’s how we spend our days. And it’s precious.

So when I’m tempted to rush through to the next “big” thing, I’m choosing to slow down and enjoy each moment. Like changing the imminent diaper containing certified nuclear waste after the black bean and corn dinner. Maybe that’s a moment that Michael needs to enjoy…

The Role of an Adult in the Life of a Teenager

I have spent basically all of my adult life working with teenagers in some capacity. Sometimes that was Sunday school teacher. Sometimes it was camp staffer. Sometimes it was Bible study teacher, mentor, game player, worship leader, chaperon, discussion guider, host home mom, lock-in supervisor, homework helper, you name it. I love them.

I love how awkward they are in middle school and how they literally do not stop moving. Ever. What is that?

I love how they think they know everything one day and the next day the whole world is a blank slate again.

I love how they don’t know who they will be in five years but we see a glimpse of who they are becoming.

I love how dramatic they are. I really do. They are dramatic because everything is important to them. EVERYTHING is SUPER IMPORTANT! Like, OMG…

I love getting text/Facebook messages from them where I have to enlist google to decipher what all the  abbreviations mean…IDK what UR talking about…

Though I love them, I’ll be the first one to admit that I feel like an unlikely candidate for student ministry. Suffice it to say, I am not cool. No, in fact, I am pretty much the opposite of cool. I am not loud or crazy. I don’t giggle, I’m not silly. I dress pretty conservatively and am fairly reserved most of the time. My almost one year old goes to bed at 8:00 on the dot so my idea of “night life” is pretty much limited to Netflix or a good book. And I am perfectly ok with that. I despise a good 95% of what is deemed “popular” music.

Not only am I not cool, I’m a rule enforcer. I’m the chaperon that knocks on your door at 6:45 a.m. to make sure you are awake and will make it to breakfast on time. I make you drink water and eat vegetables at camp. I don’t let you go back for a second bowl of ice cream. I will shush you.

I never make the mistake of thinking I’m cool and that’s why teenagers would want to hang out with me. So why would they? Because I’m an adult. And they need adults. They need their parents, first and foremost. But even when their parents are godly and loving, they still need other adults. They need people who will love them the way Christ loves them. They need to see what it looks like to live out your faith in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and so on. They need to see that a relationship with Christ extends far beyond the four walls of the church on Wednesday night. They need someone that listens. They need someone that prays.

They don’t necessarily need a buddy. They have plenty of friends speaking all kinds of messages into their lives every day. They don’t need more of that. They need an adult who will speak truth to them. And who will listen. And who will love them and value them. That’s why it’s ok that I’m not cool. I don’t need to be. That’s not my role. My role is to model a life fully lived for Christ and the Gospel and to spur them on to do the same.

Who Cares About the “Joneses”

UPDATE: I wrote this original post on August 7th but didn’t publish it. Yesterday morning, the 8th, we woke up to several inches of water moving through our basement in a flash flood that destroyed all the flooring and baseboards but thankfully left most of the equipment and furniture salvageable. So not only did our home improvement project list just get significantly longer…we were reminded yet again that what we do have really isn’t even ours. We should hold on to it loosely. And it’s just stuff…

ORIGINAL POST: Michael and I are in our second week of a massive ‘spring cleaning’ project around the house. Yes, it is August. Probably the fact that we are doing spring cleaning in August should give you a clue as to how desperately our poor little house needs it. We haven’t gotten to the actual cleaning part yet – we are still working on the organizing. It started two Saturdays ago. We were out early doing some garage sale shopping. Michael said he would like to make better use of the storage space under our bed. I said I was wanting to get some bed risers so it seemed like we were on the same page. 11 days and about 27 home organization projects later and our house is still an absolute wreck. And the bed risers are sitting by the door waiting to go back to Target.

In my mind, the reason our house doesn’t stay organized is because it’s small – we don’t have much storage space, the bedrooms are small, no pantry, etc. Granted, our house boasts about 2400 square feet of livable space, but we actually “live” in about 1400 of that. (I do have to, somewhat reluctantly, admit that the studio space is perhaps the most organized and often cleanest part of the house.) Of course it doesn’t take more than 2 minutes on the internet to understand how ridiculously large our house is in comparison with global standards. You don’t even have to make comparisons to impoverished countries to be embarrassed. In 2009, the average new home size in the UK was 818 sq feet. In Spain it was 1,044. France was 1,206 and Canada was 1,948. The average new home size in the US was 2,164, second only to Australia who came in just over 2,300 sq feet. So what was I saying about our house being small?

Why is the lure of “keeping up with the Joneses” so strong at times? 90% of the time I am perfectly content with our house and our stuff. In fact, over the years Michael and I have made conscious decisions to accumulate less and live more simply. We want to always live below our means. We want to live in a place where we are satisfied and not constantly looking out the window thinking there could be more. I want to put my clothes away in my tiny closet and be happy. Who cares about the “Joneses” anyway? I want to not just be content with what I have, I want to make a conscious decision to live with less.

In Priscilla Shirer‘s “One in a Million“, she takes the reader on a journey with God by walking through the history of the Israelite’s journey from Egypt to Canaan. When she talks about the Israelites being led by the pillar of cloud and fire, she writes this, “Wouldn’t it be cool if God would just come down and linger over the house He wants you to buy, over the church He wants you to attend, over the person He wants you to date and marry?” OH wait…HE DID. He did linger over our house. Ok, so it certainly wasn’t a pillar of cloud in the sky. But he prepared this house for us. Before we ever moved to the Nashville area, before we ever heard of Central Baptist Church, before we ever decided we would live in Hendersonville, He lingered. In 2005, the SBC Annual Meeting was held in Nashville. Our pastor and his wife participated in a city wide prayer walk as part of the conference. They were assigned a section of Hendersonville which included our street. They walked for hours and prayed over the houses in the neighborhood, ending right in front of our house. They stopped and prayed over our house, praying for the people that would live there in the future, for how those people would be involved in the community and for the how they may even be involved in the church. They prayed specifically over our house and for us. We moved into that house 5 years later and Kathy cried as she told me that story and realized she was praying for us.

So when I struggle with dissatisfaction over what we don’t have or what we could have, I’m reminded…God knew what He was doing when He put us here. He planted us here not so we could have a cool house, but so we could be part of a community. The house may not be everything I want it to be, but it’s more than enough. And someday it will be clean again!

Packing Up the Dreams God Planted

Most of you that I have been doing life with over the last 2 months are aware of a major change taking place in my life right now! But since I have been engulfed in camp life since the middle of May, contact with the “outside world” has been minimal. So here is my life update.

After 14 years of involvement in camp ministry, I am officially stepping out of the event planning world and venturing into the world of publishing. You know, there are those times when there is just a perfect storm of God speaking to you through loved ones, events, circumstances and His word. The past 6 months have been that perfect storm. The result is that this summer was my last summer with camps and this fall marks the beginning of a new role as Acquisitions Editor working with B&H Women. Don’t ask me what all that means, because I’m still not entirely sure yet! What I do know is that God has been preparing me in ways I never could have imagined. I think over my years with FUGE Camps and think about parts of my “job box” that I took on over the years where I was stretched and did things I didn’t expect to be doing. And now I sit in a new chair and I can see how all those things have prepared me for this specific role.

Being a Coordinator for FUGE was an absolute dream job. Camp (not always FUGE, but camp in general) was life-changing for me as a camper, as a staffer and as a full-time Coordinator. From the time that I was 17, I felt called to camp ministry. The summers of 1998 and 1999 (FRESH out of high school) were spent with Student Life – basically unpaid and doing lots of dirty work! But man, those summers were amazing. I was whisked away from small town East Texas and was thrown into relationships with godly, creative, passionate, fun, young adults that loved me like a little sister (since I was only 17 at the time) and taught me about life, faith and of course how to run awesome camp. Then a few summers later I joined the ranks of FUGE staffers – a family I am so proud to be a part of. I had no idea what I was getting into that summer. No idea the life-change that God had in store that summer or the 7 other summers to come.

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When Jeff Pratt called me in November of 2009 to officially offer me the Coordinator position, it was literally a dream come true. It was all I ever wanted to be and all I could imagine myself doing. This was it. The dream job. Now 4 years later, I’ve packed up those dreams and moved my random, but profoundly sentimental, memorabilia over to a new office (things like duct tape picture frames, “The Stinky Cheese Man” book and a little stuffed turtle). My personal timeline for “when to get off the camp train” did NOT include a stop in 2013. But as we know, God’s timeline and our timeline do not always line up. And the funny thing is, God started preparing my heart long before this new job opportunity was ever an option on the table. I didn’t know why but God had taken me on a journey from “I love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else” to “I love what I do, but I can at least imagine doing something else” to “I love what I do, but maybe I could even be excited about something else.” I didn’t know why God was doing that at the time, but now I do. So that when the time came to make the decision about the offer on the table, I could say “yes” and have peace. And I do. I feel very blessed to be moving into my second full-time position at LifeWay and to still be excited about what I do. I am thankful for the people that have spoken wise words into my life in the past 6 months through this process and for the Lord’s guidance throughout. And more than I could ever put into words, I am thankful for 14 summers of camp, 300+ teammates, 350+ staffers I’ve coordinated, thousands of students, 80+ Mega Relays, an office staff that was more like family and the list goes on and on and on…

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