IndividualismI know what you are thinking. “What the heck is she talking about? It is good that I am an individual! That makes me my own person, different from everyone else, able to stand out from the crowd and makes what I have to offer the world special!”

And that is all true. We do need to lean into our giftings and our talents. We do need to make sure that we are not just trying to “fit in” and be like everyone else around us. But there are some aspects of our individualistic societal norms that are hurting us, and lately I have been bombarded with the reality of this.

Years ago, it was a common thing to hear, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and it was not only a saying, but a reality. If a child was misbehaving, it was common to see whatever adult that was around take care of the situation by stepping in and offering the necessary correction. That was because the name of the game was community. Everyone was looking out for the good of the community.

When the focus is on what is best for the community (any size – large or small, family unit or social unit) the criteria for decision-making is different from when the focus is on what is best for the individual. With one it is all about the group. With the other it is all about “me.”

When the focus becomes all about “me,” certain things begin to happen. No longer does anyone else matter. No longer does anyone else even make it into the decision-making process. When the focus is all about “me,” the basic tenets of The Golden Rule are all but forgotten.

“She did it to me, so I am going to do it to her.”

“He isn’t meeting my needs, so why should I meet his?”

“This makes me feel good, so who cares who it hurts in the process.”

This is the mindset of the individual who has lost the ability to live in community.

It is this mindset that is dangerous to our society.

When this mindset permeates a community, a major breakdown of that community occurs, and I think we are increasingly seeing the results of that breakdown in both social and family units.

The school parking lot is one area in which I see this at work. Parents are so focused on their to-do list and where they have to be that they can’t stop to let a child cross in front of their car, much less let another parent pull into the line in front of them.

I see this happening in families where the parents are so focused on themselves that the kids are left to their own devices, which not only models to the children that they can make life all about themselves, but also breaks down the family unit into a group of individuals rather than a collective, which is what the family should be.

I see this happening with kids who have never been taught respect for other people because they have parents who have raised them to believe that life is all about themselves and what they want. And I see adults who think they can bully and intimidate anyone to get what they want, because they think they are entitled to it.

I see this happening in relationships where one spouse doesn’t feel like they are getting their needs met, and instead of reaching out and working to meet the needs of their spouse, they go looking elsewhere to get what they think they need, never mind the potential (and inevitable) destruction of at least one other person.

I see this happening when it comes to health. This attitude of “I deserve to eat whatever I want whenever I want,” despite how it affects others is part of the problem with the obesity crisis in our country. Never mind how one’s health effects their family. Never mind how one’s chronic disease affects everyone else’s health care costs.

I see this happening when it comes to business. “We can go ahead and market this food (or any other item) that we know is terrible for people because we are only concerned about our bottom line, not how it affects people; and even if it does harm them in some way, we can blame them for not taking responsibility for themselves.”

But one of the saddest places I see this happening is in the church. “I know right from wrong and I know that I am good when it comes to my faith and relationship with God, and that is enough. I don’t need to help anyone else. I don’t need to offer them hope. I don’t need to give to the work of the Lord, because I need want the money more.”

I could go on and on with the ways that individualism is detrimental to our society, but I think you get the point. I hope you get the point.

During this season of Lent, I have been thinking about self-denial, preaching about self-denial, and now blogging about self-denial. As a follower of Christ, I am told to take up my cross, deny myself, and follow Christ. That means that my needs don’t come first. In fact, they come third. God and others come before me. My to-do list takes a back seat to God’s. My wants take a back seat to serving others. That is not always a fun place to be. Sometimes I feel stressed out and taken advantage of when I am living life this way; but every time God provides what I need – whether that is time to accomplish a task, rest, someone to care for me, or just a reminder that I am doing what He has called me to do.

I am trying. I am learning. I am working to teach my children. Life is not all about me. Life is not all about them. The way we view life, the way we make decisions, and the way we contribute to society has to be done through the eyes of the community and not through the eyes of individualism. That is the only way that our society will thrive, and as goes the community, we go as well.

 

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It’s Monday! And I have so many things going through my head!

So welcome to the randomness of my brain today!

  • I am IN LOVE with a new shampoo and conditioner. It is called Purology. I am currently using Strength Cure and I can honestly say I can’t remember the last time my hair was this healthy – and I have been using only salon products on it for years. It is a little more pricy than some products, BUT you only have to use the tiniest amount. My previous shampoo and conditioner had a pump and i would pump THREE TIMES to get enough to get a good lather with the shampoo and cover all of my hair with the conditioner. With Purology, I use maybe a dime-to-nickel sized dollop and have PLENTY! If you are in the Greenville, Illinois area, go see Fay at Absolutely You and get some!
  • I am pretty sure the absolute best way to start a Monday morning is with a good sweat and PiYo. I always feel so much better after a workout, and I am ready to take on the world.
  • March starts tomorrow. It is my birthday month. I have maintained my current weight for a number of months now and I am ready to start moving downward again. The winter layers of clothing are going to start coming off soon, and I want to get my body ready for summer! I have a plan. I have shared my plan with a couple of other people (because if you don’t share your plan, there is no one to hold you accountable), and I am ready to EXECUTE IT! No more excuses. No more junk food. No more staying in bed instead of working out. No more short-cuts. The only way to get from one point to another is to MOVE, and I am on the move. Anyone out there want to come with me? I can help you with a plan, just sent me a message!
  • About six weeks ago I bought a juicer. I LOVE it! I have been making some kind of juice about once a day just to get some more nutrients in and hopefully reap some detoxification benefits. I did a three-day partial juice fast last week (I had Shakeology for breakfast and I ate dinner every day with fruit/vegetable juices in between) to try to help reset my system after having the flu the previous week. It was great. If you know me, you know that I am all about consistent, disciplined, healthy eating – not crash diets and fads. In other words, I don’t think going on an all-juice fast for an extended period of time is necessarily the best thing for everyone (there may be some cases where that would be recommended by a doctor), but I do think there are some benefits to adding fresh juice to our diets and I am enjoying experimenting with various concoctions!
  • Finally, it is LEAP DAY! Let’s talk about LEAPS! I feel like I am leaping all over the place these days, stepping out and up in ways that I never dreamed possible, but one of the biggest ones right now is volunteering to organize and direct the Vine to Wine 1/2 Marathon and 5K coming in September. I have organized many events and run many races, but never done anything quite this big. I am excited. And a little scared. But I like it. Life without challenges isn’t really living and I am up for it.

Your turn! What is one of the BIGGEST leaps you have taken or want to take in your life – any area?

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Oh. My. Word.

Or to quote Liz Lemon, “What the What?”

I never, ever dreamed I would do it.

Sure, I thought it would be a great idea, and I LOVE creating events and such, but I just didn’t think it would be a part of my reality.

But it is.

I have thought for years that we needed a running club in Greenville.

And I have always thought it would be great to host a big running event in Greenville.

And BOTH of these things are happening as we speak.

An impromptu New Year’s Day group run had a friend voice what I had been thinking, “we should start a running club in Greenville.” And that was enough for me to decide that 2016 was going to be the year.

bocoruncologo

Five awesomely fun 10K runs at wineries around the Indianapolis area and befriending the race director, along with a new winery opening up in town had me thinking it would be so cool to do a wine run here in town. A few conversations later and the Vine to Wine 1/2 Marathon and 5K is becoming a reality.

Me. The girl who didn’t want to call herself a runner for a long time. Pulling people together to, of all things, run.

I am thrilled. I am ecstatic. I am so excited for the future.

It is a beautiful thing to see your dreams becoming reality.

Live in or around Bond County Illinois and want to join BoCo RunCo? Visit our website for details on how to join!

Like to run (or walk) and want to do a great 1/2 marathon or 5K? Register for the Vine to Wine 1/2 Marathon and 5K on September 10, 2016!

Curious about how a high school runner who became a non-runner got back to being a runner? Read my story here!

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The first of this year has been a rough one already. I have friends that have experienced unforeseeable tragedy, and I hurt for them. Just today, I heard of another tragic happening affecting a family I love, and I have been reminding myself all day that we don’t have the answers or understand why, and in this fallen world, filled with evil, God is still present.

This is my sermon from this past Sunday, and I just feel like I should share it today.

Take a listen and let God’s word bring you hope today.

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So, this blog post idea has been in the Notes app on my phone since November 17. Today is December 7 for those of you who might not realize it. This is how crazy my life has been: a blog post that pretty much writes itself hasn’t been written. But today is Monday. A new day, a new week, and I have been marking stuff off of my to-do list like a mad woman. Not sure how long into the week being on top of things will last, so I am going to take this opportunity to ACTUALLY WRITE! It is a beautiful thing!

So one of the things that I have struggled with for years is depression. And the winter only makes it more pronounced. I strongly dislike (note that I am choosing NOT to use the word hate) cold, dreary, wet, dark days. I have already said numerous times that summer can come any day now. I like my sun and warm. I like being outside. I like laying in the pool on a raft, taking a ride on the lake in a boat, sitting on my porch sipping ice-cold drinks with friends. And while the occasional “snuggle up on the couch in a warm cozy blanket” day is a welcome respite, the “I am freezing all the time and can’t get warm for anything” monotony of winter leads me down a dark path.

Because I know this about myself, I have had to learn ways to fight off the “I want to stay in my bed for weeks and eat nothing but bad-for-me comfort food and take turns sleeping and watching television” blahs. Here are a few of my go-to weapons.

  1. Work out. Do it. Whatever kind of workout you can do. Take a brisk walk. Go for a run. Head out to a group exercise class (Here is one I teach!). Find an in-home DVD that you enjoy (I can help you find one.). Do something EVERY DAY. The more you move, the more endorphins are released. The more endorphins that are released, the better you feel. The better you feel, the easier it is to fight off the blahs when they come in like a flood.
  2. Eat right. Do it. If you don’t know how, talk to me about it and I will help. Comfort food may seem like it comforts you in the moment, but those sugary, high fat, high carb foods will cause you to crash harder once the initial “high” wears off. Studies have shown that VEGETABLES have an inherent anti-depressant quality, but to get the benefits, you have to eat them. 🙂 If you struggle with this, here is a way to help: don’t buy the junk and/or keep it out of sight. Keep healthy choices in front of you and make them what you reach for in those moments of weakness. Also, when you are having a blah day, be sure that you aren’t eating for comfort. When you feel overly “snacky” find an alternative – go for a walk, call a friend, pick up a hobby you enjoy. Making these healthier choices will help you combat those “down” days.
  3. Get sleep. Do it. Lack of sleep wreaks all kinds of havoc on your body, not to mention your emotional state. Figure out how much sleep you need and make it happen. Sometimes it is hard when you have commitments, but as often as possible get to bed at a time that allows you adequate rest. I know that I need between 6-1/2 and 8 hours of sleep a night to function well. That means if I am getting up at 4:30 a.m. (yep – that is what time I get up almost every weekday so I can make sure #1 happens), I need to have the lights out by 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. at the absolute latest. That means that I get kids headed to bed between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m., and I am in my bed by 9:00 p.m. to have some time to do my devotions and read for a little while. If you want to feel better, make sleep a priority.
  4. Even if you are doing all three of these things fairly well, there will still be rough days sometimes. Don’t let the blahs win. Get up. Get dressed in real clothes (don’t default to the sweats/yoga pants that are calling your name). Put on some makeup (if you are one that wears makeup). Do your hair. There is something about the process of making yourself look good that in turn makes you feel good.
  5. Last but certainly not least, if you are still struggling, ASK FOR HELP! It might be you need your spouse to do something to help you. You might need to have lunch with a friend. It is possible that you need medical or pharmaceutical assistance. When you have tried everything and it isn’t getting you anywhere, it is time to call in reinforcements in the form of PEOPLE who care about you and love you.

You can make it through the winter blahs. Even if it means you occasionally need to turn up the music and have an impromptu dance party in the middle of your living room or drive around town with the music blaring and you singing at the top of your lungs. (Yes, sometimes these are necessary coping mechanisms for me.) So in that vein, since it is Monday and I like to share music with you on Mondays, enjoy one of my family’s favorite Christmas songs and SMILE!

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It’s Monday. And that means some of you might need to be cheered up. So here is a lovely throwback song for you!

Now that you are smiling (or annoyed at me for putting this song in your head), you can go on to listen to the sermon that I preached yesterday which used this song as an illustration. It was a tough sermon for me to write, as well as preach, because it is a touchy subject. And yet it is a topic that we often ignore because it is easier to ignore it than to deal with the issues of our hearts. And the topic is…

Money.

But the thing is, God uses money to teach us some very important lessons about how we live our lives. And Jesus talked about money more than any other subject. So apparently we have something to learn when it comes to the way we view and manage our finances.

Take a listen and let’s talk!

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It Matters

I was driving home from teaching PiYo early on Wednesday morning and this song began playing. I have heard it so many times it shouldn’t have caught me any differently than before. But it did.

And then Wednesday at noon we were talking in Bible study about how in our culture we tend to take a step back and not try to change anything because we are either overwhelmed with the immensity of the problem and we don’t think that the little bit that we could do would make a difference or we don’t want to stand out from the crowd and be ridiculed or perhaps even persecuted for trying to go against the status quo.

For all of you who wonder if what you do makes a difference.

  • If helping one person has any impact at all on the world.
  • If standing up for the rights of a group of people changes how they are treated.
  • If making right choices in your life makes the world a better place.
  • If pouring your heart and soul into what you feel called to do affects the people around you.

It does. It is worth it. It is needed.

Change begins small and grows. A fire begins with a single spark. One rock dropped into the water makes ever-increasing ripples.

But even if you aren’t able to see how what you are doing is making an impact on the world around you, it is making an impact on you. You are making a stand and a statement by doing what is right, by helping others, and by giving your best. And in the process you are letting people know that you care enough to do something that may not gain you a thing except a stronger character.

“As long as one heart holds on, then hope is never really gone.”

Keep being the change that you want to see. Even when it is hard. Even when it goes unnoticed.

It makes a difference.

Garth Brooks video: The Change from Big Chief Studio on Vimeo.

The Change
by Garth Brooks

One hand reaches out
And pulls a lost soul from harm
While a thousand more go unspoken for
And they say,
“What good have you done by saving just this one”
It’s like whispering a prayer
In the fury of a storm

And I hear them saying,
“You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do
It’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world will know
That it will not change me

This heart still believes
That love and mercy still exist
While all the hatreds rage
And so many say
“That love is all but pointless,
In madness such as this
“It’s like trying to stop a fire
With the moisture from a kiss”

And I hear them saying,
“You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do
It’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world will know
That it will not change me

As long as one heart still holds on
Then hope is never really gone

And I hear them saying,
“You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do
It’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world we know
Never changes me

What I do is so, this world will know
That it will not change me

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I have been turning this idea over and over in my head lately, mostly because I can’t seem to create any.

Balance.

Work. Kids. Kids’ activities. Kids’ activities for which I need to be present. Husband. Home. Bills. Business. Fitness. Health. Cooking. Friends. Facebook. (We have to be honest, Facebook is a thing on the balance list.) Sleeping. Laundry. Netflix. (Yes, Netflix is a thing, too.) Running. Social life. (Wait – do I have a social life?) Hebrew. Did I mention Hebrew?

There’s probably more. I am sure I am forgetting something. I can’t keep all those plates spinning all the time. Some of them come crashing to the floor. Hard. And often. And when that happens, I tend to beat myself up. Hard. And often.

I like what Jen Hatmaker says about balance in her most recent book, For the Love:

If I had to recite the top questions I’m asked in interviews, conversations, and e-mails, certainly included would be this one: How do you balance work and family and community? And every time, I think: Do you even know me? Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing. Here is part of the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories. No one constructed fairy-tale childhoods for their spawn, developed an innate set of personal talents, fostered a stimulating and world-changing career, created stunning homes and yardscapes, provided homemade food for every meal (locally sourced, of course), kept all marriage fires burning, sustained meaningful relationships in various environments, carved out plenty of time for “self care,” served neighbors/ church/ world, and maintained a fulfilling, active relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior. You can’t balance that job description.

unicorn

She’s right, you know. Balance is like that mythical unicorn. It doesn’t exist. There will be times in our lives when we are more attentive to one or two areas of our lives and less attentive to others. And those areas will naturally change as our lives progress.

The problem comes when we start the ugly comparison game. This game was a losing one before social media, but has become downright destructive in the current online culture. We see everyone’s best posted on Facebook. We see all the great ways to be a wonderful parent, sexy wife, efficient worker, gourmet chef and bikini model all over Pinterest. We see everyone else’s selfies of girls nights out on Instagram. And when we do, we start comparing our lives to everyone else’s and assuming we fall short. But what we don’t realize is that we are only seeing a small sliver of everyone else’s life through a filtered lens. Sure, they may be doing a great job homeschooling their children, but behind closed doors could be suffering a severe bout of depression. Maybe they have a fantastic relationship with their husband, but they are struggling with an enormous debt load.

The point is that we all struggle with balance and none of us achieve it, or if we think we have, it lasts a millisecond and is gone. The real problem isn’t balance, but rather giving ourselves permission to focus on what is the most important and, to quote a song I am sure we are all tired of hearing, say “Let it go” to what isn’t on the top of the priority list right now.

For me right now that might mean that I have to study Hebrew instead of watching an episode (or 10) of House on Netflix. It might mean that I don’t get to go to the 50,000 in-home parties that my friends have because I have a volleyball game to watch or a PiYo class to teach. The important thing to remember is that we can’t do it all, and we shouldn’t put that kind of pressure on ourselves. Living a busy life with many commitments is hard. Living that same life under the shadow of constant guilt for not doing or being enough is impossible and eventually will take its toll.

So, take heart and remember that while the picture of the unicorn is beautiful, it is in fact fictional, just like the idea of balance in the life of a busy human being. Give yourself grace, stop with the guilt, and do your best at what is most important today. Tomorrow you can re-evaluate what needs to be most important then.

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One of my favorite bloggers, Jenny Lawson of thebloggess.com, released her second book yesterday. It is called Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things. In it, Jenny talks about her lifelong battle with mental illness. Humorously. Sounds like an interesting combination, doesn’t it?

Jenny says that, “We all get our share of tragedy or insanity or drama, but what we do with that horror is what makes all the difference.”

We are all broken. For some of us it takes the form of mental illness. For others it is physical. Sometimes it is in our relationships with others. Sometimes it is in our relationships with ourselves.

But the thing that Jenny encourages us all to do is to choose to be Furiously Happy. To be irrationally joyful and vehemently happy. This is sometimes easier said than done, but when we can’t pull that off on our own, we can always read a chapter of Jenny’s book. Because it will make you laugh.* I promise.

Jenny’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir made me laugh out loud. Often. Her blog and book have been a source of (edited) readings to my family and friends. So if you like humor, she is a good source for it.

But what has really drawn me to Jenny’s work is the fact that she taught me this: depression lies. Over and over again when I am in the midst of a rough patch, I remind myself that depression lies. It says things to me like:

  • You aren’t good enough.
  • You are a terrible wife/mother/health & fitness coach/pastor/housekeeper/[insert lots of other things here].
  • The best thing for you to do is just give up and lay on the couch binge-watching Netflix.
  • You loser, you just spent the entire evening on the couch binge-watching Netflix!
  • You will never get better.
  • You are going to fight me the rest of your life.

But when I remind myself that depression lies, eventually I can get to a place where I replace the lies of depression with the TRUTH of who I am.

  • I am good enough.
  • I am a good wife/mother/health & fitness coach/pastor/housekeeper/[insert lots of other things here].
  • Sometimes it is okay to rest on the couch and binge-watch Netflix. But today, I can binge-watch while I clean up the living room.
  • I am not a loser for letting the couch call me in to its warmth. I am not a loser for binge-watching Netflix. Sometimes a busy woman needs some down time.
  • I will get better.
  • Even when it puts up a fight, I will win over the depression.

Sometimes it is hard to get to this place of speaking TRUTH over the lies of depression, but the more I remind myself of the lies, the more the truth is able to be heard.

I have been walking through this journey for a long time now, and recently have walked through it with a friend who doesn’t yet recognize the lies of depression. I am trying to help her learn this very important lesson. One that I was able to learn because Jenny shared her story.

I am not saying that simply by reading a book you can conquer your own mental illness battle, but I am saying that you get to choose how you will overcome. I choose to be Furiously Happy.

I am broken because depression lies.

I am Furiously Happy because I am a Daughter of the King.

Will you share your broken and happy stories with me today?

*Disclaimer: If you are easily offended by bad language, find a different book or blog to read that makes you laugh. Because Jenny isn’t afraid to throw out strong language.

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Overflow

This past week I visited the University of Tennessee campus for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) gathering, Big Tent. It was three days of great inspiration. I haven’t yet had a chance to sit down with my numerous pages of notes and process all that I heard, but there were some high points and quotes that I would like to share with you today.

  • In Christ. A new creation. A tag-line for all of us.
  • The characters that make up the word “happiness” in Chinese are “open” (which consists of a door and hands joined) and “heart.” Gives a pretty good visual of what is necessary for happiness – opening our hearts to others.
  • Even though some of Jesus’s disciples doubted, they were still sent.
  • We participate in the systemic reality of poverty n our nation because we like a bargain, we like the cheapest price, and our passion for getting a bargain is keeping people in poverty.
  • The average salary of a CEO in a publicly traded company is $10 million a year, which comes out to about $5,000 an hour. So in three hours a CEO makes what someone earning minimum wage makes in one year.
  • When it comes to working with millennials, it doesn’t so much matter about the particulars of our beliefs, but rather that we live out what we believe.
  • Old structures can’t support new vision, which means structures must change in order for change to occur.
  • Reading and writing poetry helps us practice better theology.
  • Conditioning and habits makes us dull or makes us deep – we choose which one.
  • There is a difference between knowing God and knowing about God, just like there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone.
  • God acts first and we respond. God loved us first and so we love. God gave us grace and thus we have gratitude.
  • Felt needs often outweigh discernment and that should not be. You cannot rush discernment.
  • If there is a problem with modern Christianity it isn’t that it leans too far to the right or to the left, it is that it doesn’t lead.
  • When we align ourselves with the identity of the Living God amazing things happen.

This covers about 1/10th (or less) of the stuff I heard over those three days. It was an amazing time of learning, meeting new people, and worship. Even though you don’t have all the context for where these ideas came from, I hope there is at least one idea that sticks out to you and you can think about and consider further.

Let me know which of these ideas strikes a chord in you!

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