May 30, 2019

Scarcity vs Sufficiency

Come, sit by me for a minute and let's talk about feeling peace and joy when you look around you and see a gap between where you are and where you wish you were.

If you know me at all, you know that I am a STRIVER. I have this inner drive that is half mental and half amazing. I always wish I could do more and if I'm honest, this desire makes me amazing and annoying at the same time. 

Today on the way home from work I was listening to a book on tape- The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and I was so touched by her discussions on the scarcity mentality vs feeling of sufficiency. I recognize within myself a feeling of scarcity-- my house is never clean enough, my yard is never weeded enough, my kids are never well-behaved, modest, or helpful enough. I don't have enough time to serve. I don't have enough energy. I don't have enough self-discipline. 

I wrote a comment on Facebook and I said "my life is not picture-perfect". 
I am finishing up teaching early morning seminary and I told a student in an email, "there are so many goals that I had for this class that we didn't accomplish..."

And then, I began to scroll through my instagram account @mossmoments

Do you know what I found? 

I found a picture-perfect life. 

I found a mom who loves her children.
I found happy, smiling kids.
I found a house that looks lived in and lovely.
I found a yard that is green and beautiful.
I found goals that were accomplished.
I found a family that is thriving, serving, and trying. 

The thing that makes me sad when I look at those pictures is not that my house is too messy or my yard has weeds. I don't even feel sad that I didn't serve another person in my church or that I'm very lazy about kneeling for prayer time. The thing that made me sad when I looked at those pictures is that I know, I KNOW, that even on the days when I posted the cutest pictures I went to bed feeling like I was failing.

And, the truth was, I WAS failing... at some things. 

But, the truth also is, I am succeeding at many things. 

I don't know. I'm only 42 and I'm still trying to figure out this thing called life. 

I remember I learned a lesson when I was in the hospital with Ben. 
I learned that people don't' just have FAITH. Meaning, when I was laying in my hospital bed very ill, I did not just FEEL certain that God was blessing me and helping me and that everything would be okay. I felt a lot of DOUBT. I felt scared. I felt forsaken. I felt sick and tired and grumpy and angry at God. AND I felt loved and blessed and so very lucky, and so close to the Lord. I felt BOTH at the same time.  

I learned in the hospital that FAITH is not a feeling. It is a CHOICE. I really had to choose what feeling I focused on because if I focused on my doubt and self-pity I would quickly drown in misery and pain. If I focused on my blessings, my belief, my gratitude-- my faith would also grow and I would SEE more miracles in my life. I physically felt better when I chose to focus on the positive. Pollyanna understood this truth. 

I think FAITH/DOUBT is similar to SCARCITY/SUFFICIENCY. 

I think the truth is, we all are amazing at some things and we suck at others. I think our kids are good at some things and awful at others. I don't think it is "fake" to focus on the positive. I think focusing on the positive is actually the secret to success. 

I don't think that I need to improve one whit to be good enough. I think, I just need to be able to SEE where I fall short and CHOOSE not to focus on that. I think my SCARCITY mentality will always be there, sitting on my shoulder. I will always see areas that I can improve. I just think I need to learn to SEE the mess and not focus on it. 

What do you think? 
Maybe some people are just naturally faithful and they really never doubt. Yay them. This isn't me. 

Maybe some people aren't bothered if they have a messy bathroom sink or baskets of unfolded laundry hiding in their bedroom. This isn't me. I'm bothered by everything I wish I had figured out and I don't. I think I've spent too much time trying to not be bothered by this stuff or trying to be good enough to never have things that bother me. But, maybe I have had it all wrong. Maybe I can just accept that I have things that bother me... and not focus on them. 

I have sufficient for my needs. I have sufficient for my family. I have sufficient time. I have sufficient skills. I have a sufficient home and sufficient order. 

I'm not a superstar or a loser. I'm sufficient. I'm enough. 

I have a confession to make to you. I think I already admitted this...

I taught an early morning scripture class this year and I had a few goals for our class.
1. I wanted to feel the Spirit in our lessons each day.
2. I wanted the kids to really gel, to have inspiring gospel conversations, and to build each other up.
3. I wanted to use our actual books of scripture, to mark them up, study them, and love them. 

I can say, we felt the Spirit each day. I felt the Spirit. I learned. Our lessons were good. Okay.

But, I talked WAY too much. Honestly. I lectured. The kids didn't really discuss. They were quiet and tired and when they did talk it was about out-of-class stuff, not the lesson. They would answer questions and talk a little. But, we didn't achieve the classroom interaction that I wish we could have. 

I blame myself. I didn't prepare enough for my lessons. I spent too much time on social media avoiding lesson prep and too little time prepping. I was insecure (teaching my own teenagers is tough). I didn't trust them to chat- I directed the lessons too much. I was nervous that I wasn't teaching well and I tried to get through each lesson instead of helping them discover the lessons.  I could go on and on in my evaluation. This first year of teaching was rough. I have 100 things I wish I would have done differently. And, I'm right. These are real observations. 

And, we didn't use our scriptures. WE USED OUR PHONES. bleh. I REALLY wanted the kids to mark and search paper scriptures. But, we just didn't do it. I don't think any of us REALLY loved our scriptures this year the way I loved my scriptures when I was in high school. It isn't just that we used our phones, it's that we never got INTO the scriptures like I know we could have if I were a better teacher. I taught the lessons but I didn't feel the feast that was there... I've been better before. This scarcity is real- I simply wasn't a great teacher. 

I had these darling teenagers EVERY MORNING for a whole school year and I didn't achieve my goals. In a way, I feel like I let myself down, the kids down, their parents down, and God down. I really feel that way. And, I think I'm right. 

BUT... I also know that I'm loved. My Father in Heaven loves me fiercely. He called me to teach this class even though He knew I would fail to get the class to completely open up and expound deeply on gospel principles in class. He knew I would fail to help them mark and love their scriptures. And, it was OKAY.  It was sufficient for Him, for them, and for me. My effort was enough.  He took my offering EVEN THOUGH IT WAS ONLY ONE FISH AND ONE LOAF (not enough) and He made it sufficient. My failure is enough for His feast. 

I think I'm in the habit of seeing my faults and using that as a springboard to self-improvement. 

This lesson is different. It is more about pacing than perfection. 

Can you see something in yourself that you know you could improve but feel okay that you haven't improved it yet? Can you give yourself grace BEFORE you have improved? 

I'm working on that. 

I need to go to bed now. I'm certain I'm rambling. 

I have one more example of what I'm talking about that I have learned from work.

I used to get in trouble at work because I worked too many hours and I always forget to take lunch. 

You see, in my mind, I had a job to do and it was EXTRA GOOD of me to forgo my lunch or work late to try to accomplish the task that I am supposed to accomplish. 

In my mind, a "good enough" employee finished assignments, helped all her tenants/landlords to be happy, returned every email promptly, and answered every phone message ASAP. If this meant I didn't get lunch or had to work late (without getting paid more), I was willing to do that to be a "good employee".

Turns out, my boss had a different idea of what makes an employee great. In her mind, the list of tasks in my job would NEVER be finished. So, to her, a good employee practiced self-care and time-management. She wanted to see me take at least a 30-minute lunch every day and leave EXACTLY at the end of my day. To her, it was the ability to LIMIT my work that made me effective NOT the ability to devote myself to my job. 

Understanding this paradigm difference, actually helped me to shift my way of thinking and to become a more responsible employee. My boss asked me one day, "Why can't you leave work on time?" I realized that to me, staying late to finish more was being a good employee. She explained that in her mind a good employee understood the boundaries of what they could accomplish in one day and was responsible enough to leave at the scheduled time. I was changed. 

How does this relate to scarcity/sufficiency? 

The Scarcity Mentality is me constantly trying to FINISH my job... working long hours and feeling great stress when I finally left because even though I worked an extra two hours without extra pay, I am still not DONE.

The Sufficient Mentality is me agreeing to work every day from 8:30 am to 4 pm with a 30-minute lunch break from 12 to 12:30. Sufficiency is understanding that I will give my best between those hours even though I KNOW that I will not be able to help all the people I am hired to help or return all the emails or finish all the reports. I do not have enough time or money or skills to actually help the people I work with the way I wish I could help them. It really isn't possible. But, my boss wants me to TRY. To work hard- for 7 hours, and then go home. She wants me to prioritize and to be calm and professional not stressed and over-achieving. 

Stopping my day, every day at 3:30 pm has been an interesting life skill to learn. It is almost impossible for me. But, I try. I try to wind down my day at 3:30, to clean up my desk, to shut down my computer and to tell myself... the problems you see will still be here tomorrow. WELL DONE FOR TODAY. 

Guess what? 
I do have a picture-perfect life.
I have two loads of unfolded laundry in my bedroom and 10 loads of laundry that I washed/dried/folded and helped my kids put away. 
We had a house full of friends all weekend long. 
I help people.
I love my children.
My kids are normal/good kids. 
My kids are healthy and happy and imperfect but full of joy. 
My house is safe and sanitary and lovely and a little messy. 

 There is a gap between where I am and where I wish I was... but I'm headed in the right direction. 

I don't think anyone expects me to FINISH today. 
I think it's okay with God if I have two little manilla folders labeled "Talk Less/Get Your Class to Talk More" and "OPEN YOUR SCRIPTURES MORE" that I place in my active file cabinet drawer of "THINGS TO DO..." or projects I'm still working on. 

Right? 
I can have a successful day even when I still have things I know I need to improve on... I can rest.  I can take a lunch break. I can tidy my desk and feel sufficiently successful even when there is a pile of things I COULD NOT DO. I can rest even with two laundry baskets of unfolded laundry at the foot of my bed. When I spend my hours doing good... I am enough, even when I still see so much I could be doing...  Isn't that an interesting paradigm shift? 

Oh God, help me to feel this peace. 
Help me to be gentle with myself and gentle with others. 
Help me not to shrink. 
Help me not to puff myself up. 
Help me to stand right here, before you, in my holy, naked, unfinished state. 
Take my loaves and fishes and feed your sheep. 
Take my 7 hours and help me to do thy work. 
Remove from my soul a feeling of scarcity 
OR shout loudly to my mind that You can make scarce things useful. 

Bless my seminary class to learn to love thy word. 
Bless me to become a better teacher/facilitator. 
Help me to feast. Forgive me for numbing. Bless me with thy grace, thy mercy, thy rest, thy peace. 
Forgive me. 
Heal me. 
Love me. 
Help me feel thy peace and joy.

This life is good. 
Jen

May 06, 2019

My Anna- Junior Prom 101

Love the one most who needs you the most. I heard this advice from a mom of a large family who was interviewed by Oprah. Another mom I admire gave the advice that it’s okay to work more the kids who work more. I think of both these statements often as a mother. Perhaps because they are practical statements but somewhat counterintuitive.

As prom was approaching, I just felt in my heart that my Anna needed a little extra TLC. This Junior year time of transition is such an exciting and life-defining time. It is also a time when mothers and daughters/ parents and teens, are learning the dance of letting go and reeling in. 

As parents, we have so many questions and the answers are very individualized. How much do they still need you in their life? How much do you spend? How much do you dictate? What standards do you enforce and where do you let your children choose for themselves? 

I will tell you that finding that sweet spot of mothering is difficult. I continually volley between too much and too little. And, I’m a big, gooey sap for the times when my teenagers come to me asking for more Mom in their lives. 🙋🏻‍♀️ Yes, I am a Helicopter 🚁 Mom wannabe.

So- here is my Junior Prom 101.

Dances are not always a big deal for us. I buy one expensive dress per year, per teenager. The other dresses are thrifted, borrowed, or re-used.

Kids who want more, usually get more. I don’t push fancy on kids who are okay with casual. Their desire for fancy comes with time. (Ex. I didn’t rent a tux for boys who were fine wearing a suit. I also didn’t pay to get professional hair for girls who were okay styling hair themselves.)

This year, Junior Prom was a big deal for Anna. I could feel it. She wanted to feel pretty. It didn’t look like she would have a boy to take her to prom, from her small school or even smaller church group. This broke my heart more than hers. I was so glad she has the best group of girlfriends to go with! I really wanted Anna to see herself the way I see her. And honestly, Anna is really, really the most genuine, caring, graceful, beautiful, lovely lady. I couldn’t love or respect her more. 

We tried on so many dresses! Anna did not want black or navy. She wanted gold or white to go along with a Greek themed prom. We have tried ordering dresses online before and have ended up wasting hundreds of dollars on non-returnable dresses that my girls don’t like and can’t wear. So, we are stuck trying to find a modest dress in upstate New York. 
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1wVLLAqp1UznEHw9-zgoSKUarY62s5uFF
She found her dress in Macy’s (Todd, Anna, and I had a prom-dress date night in February). She loved it but posted an Instagram post AFTER she bought the dress showing ten different options asking what dress she should buy and nobody (or few) picked the dress she had already bought. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Anna had been wanting “ombré” hair andhad it dyed for her birthday right before prom.
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1W3xR4imb5RFmM2bcnbqjnVCM-zIXC2r6https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1G5a7dbvMZzhXjt-I7ZaVvJnr8-mL7ckP
We paid for her hair, make-up, spray tan (level one not bronze) and nails to be professionally done. I know. That’s a lot. To put it in perspective this is Anna’s tenth dance and first where we have done more than one of these. I think she has gotten her nails done once and hair professionally styled once. My favorite part was that she really wanted me to take her places and help her decide what to do. So, I had a lot of fun driving around with her friends to primp. 

I was unsure about paying for makeup but it really made a huge difference.
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1UVRARdTQfyIiwvCAOV3IBUzzbT4qNWZ1
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1lomD6Dehd15cNdTpKkVEJFyBCVBhMnAd
 The day before prom she told me that everyone was coming to our house for pictures. So, we moved furniture to give them a blue wall background and I bought snacks for a buffet so the parents would stay after prom to chat and eat. 
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=17-BjeBz4b4DSNt_gOL6fVJHEqi_heMvS
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1dsLHSrenab7hG8gfVise9n1ec9AOGxME
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1ya53iQ_Y_c4zRPayfbpnP32gS7DasdEp
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1NlAA9g-i7hBIPkn5cvRbtVc1Ys7xz4wJ
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1ebnujX3P-dOrKyB07ierduS849jzs-ci
The BEST thing we did for prom was that my friend, a photographer, came over and took pictures of all the kids! I will forever cherish these beautiful pictures. 
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=10em8JUR14nZWP776aRxaRjilRPFet4Ui
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1XjAdf5OnPG91VPdSONH2sWcpinvjkzKQ
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1Bs0h7jRhbtHrwFPynPnVONWkKcqqvrCt
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1gHfmYe10xwDem7vhMrYZsraOaFfABEyY
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1ZJea1aSFDdBix7JzAvJz2jPJRA0H7WBQ
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1jzvA9Jz_cd3mq5FNOPhbr8KwXna0JiyY

Yes, Junior Prom was a success. I was so tired from chaperoning the after prom party until 3am... but, I saw my little girl transform into a young woman in one afternoon. SHE saw her own beauty and that, in my opinion, was so important. 

From this...
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1u1AgLiQVOi1XDVOjNmSdmbdTKZuh1vce

To this...
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=12jg8RB88HgbZ6LumNlhRYnEBjmkba5wS

Man, I love this lady. Watching my children grow is a sweet joy and a gift I will never take lightly. 

Life is good! 

May 05, 2019

Finding Peace

For almost 10 months now I have been trying to do a job that it difficult to do. My job is challenging and learning to work full-time, teach a daily scripture class in my home, and mother effectively has been a stretching/growing opportunity for me.

Because of confidentiality agreements, I am not able to discuss the details of my work. But, I do feel a need to have a place to write and process the personal lessons I am learning. I'm not sure that this blog is that place, but it is a comfortable place for me. A place I return when I feel that I am missing old friends. I'm tempted to write and turn off the comments because the truth is that I am too sensitive to the judgments and feelings of others. But, I appreciate feedback and I think the comments on a blog make the blog alive and interactive. I'm honestly not sure anyone will read these words. But, I feel compelled to take the time to write, if only for my own mental processing and accountability.

Confession 1: I am a lovely mess these days. I gained 20 lbs since starting work. 20. I weigh the same weight that I weighed when I GAVE BIRTH to each of my five children. I'm not a large person, so I am still feeling comfortable in my skin. I'm just not feeling healthy. I have tried whole-30 (lasted about whole-6), bright line eating (turns out I hate bright lines), Arbonne shakes, Clean Eats 30-day meal plan (their shakes/supplements made me sick), intermittent fasting, 30-days with no sugar/gluten/dairy, etc. The truth is that I just don't have enough energy to commit to any meal plan. I try to make healthy choices and that lasts only until I am tired and overwhelmed with care and hungry, and then my self-control is lost and I buy take-out or sneak bite-sized candy bars that everyone in my office has sitting in a jar on their desk. Curse the kitchen at work where people bring in donuts daily and the Mexican Restaurant next door. I really don't plan my meals well and then I'm starving and I eat junk. Every week I promise myself I will do better and... then I just buy larger size pants. I am normally a 4/6 and yesterday I tried on a pair of size 10 pants and they were tight. Sigh. I know there are many women who will roll their eyes at my weight issue. It really isn't an issue, just a nagging concern that sits in the back of my mind nagging me to take better care of myself. It is one thing on a long list of things that I know I should do but I'm not quite doing it.

Confession 2: I am not sure how to find time to exercise. I try to walk two miles during lunch each day with a friend of mine at work, but we are probably 3 out of 5 days. There is a gym at the high school I can use but I went there ONCE and I felt like an idiot. I really don't know what I'm doing and I'm very out of shape. I'm insecure about exercising by myself. I need a partner that will keep me motivated. I've tried yoga online and fitness blenders and other youtube videos. When I have the choice to get up and exercise or sleep/scroll through Instagram. I choose the lazy alternative. I know exercise helps my mental state and this is another one of my nagging goals. 

Confession 3: My kids are watching too much television. I need to come home from work and be PRESENT in my home. Most days we are at softball or track practices or games and so we are just running from place to place. But, when I am home I want to feel energized and not exhausted. I want to be able to turn off work and turn on home as well as my husband does. He has had 20 years of practice doing this.

Confession 4: I'm a lousy ministering sister/bishop's wife. My husband is currently serving as a leader in our church. There are so many families in our congregation that could use some love and support and I feel like I am always falling short. I need to serve the families at church better. I need to support our missionaries better. The problem is that I don't have anything left to give.

Confession 5: I am currently teaching a scripture class to 10 teenagers every morning from 6:05 to 6:50am at my house each morning. I am an okay teacher. I give what I have, we feel the Spirit teaching us, I have a strong testimony of this gospel and a deep love for my Savior. But, a few of my students have stopped coming. And, even though I have been teaching all year, I still don't feel like I have a deep LOVE for the scriptures. I want to hunger and thirst after the word of God. I want to feel like my time with these youth and my time with the Lord is filling my soul. It still feels like an assignment. It still feels like one more thing to do. I am doing it. But, I am not being filled. I am planning my lessons, but not FEASTING on the word.

I knew when I was called to this position that I would be successful IF I sacrificed the time I spent on social media for time in the scriptures. And, I have not done that. I feel my rebellious spirit holding on to "me time" and not trusting that if I drink the water that He has to give I will never thirst. I need His water.

Confession 6: The work that I do, allows me to see hearts, homes, and families that break my heart. I see first hand the devastation caused by broken families, mental health, poverty, disabilities, and drug abuse. My excessively loving heart bonds quickly with those that I serve and it also rips as I feel their pain and my inability to fix things for them.  I have to learn how to trust in the Lord. I have to learn how to feel His peace. I have to figure out how to sleep at night. How can I just come home and not see their faces floating in my brain? Right now, my mind is constantly racing, trying to solve these problems that I cannot solve. The babies, they stay with me. But, even the big/bad men. I look into their eyes and I see babies. I see good souls who are stuck and sick and aching and my soul loves them and wants to help them.

My boss said to me last week that maybe my background in "mission work" makes it difficult for me to do this job because I want to help everyone and I don't accept the boundaries of my job. She is right. My background as a Christian who loves deeply does make it difficult for me not to care and fight for these people.  Is this something that I can fix? Is this something that I want to fix?

Confession 7: I need to learn to trust in the Lord and not lean unto my own understanding. I know that to be an effective wife/mother/teacher/community servant I need to yoke my burden with His and just walk in my sphere. To be effective I need to know His voice and trust His revelation. I'm not there yet. I'm trying too much on my own. THIS is my goal. How can I draw nearer to Him to find His peace, His healing, His strength, His health. 

I'm going to start by immersing myself in the scriptures, by replacing this blog writing with time spent scrolling through social media.

I'm going to try to eat healthier in moderation.

I'm going to choose that next right choice, one minute of each day, starting today.

I'm pretty excited about today and I need to go to finish my cake for after church!

It is Cinco De Mayo. We are having two missionary couples over for dinner.

I'm making DIY Chipotle Bowls, Green Rice, Virgin Margaritas, and Tres Leche Cake.

I'm a striver. It is in my DNA. I feel like I can do all that is required of me IF I keep my life centered on the Savior. I need Him to fill me so that my meager loaves and fishes will be ENOUGH.

God bless all of you. God bless those in my family who I love and those in your family who you love. God bless those who are fighting each day to overcome addiction, to save their homes and their families and their lives. God bless those in social services who work each day to help others. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand how we can help. Bless us who are daily caregivers that we will feel plentiful and abundant. Help us to always have more to share. Bless that today will be a truly restful Sabbath Day.

Life is good.
Jen
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