What I Learned This Summer

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Howdy friends!  Linking up with Emily P. Freeman today to reflect on lessons learned this past summer – from the silly to the sacred.

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Here are a few things I learned this summer, in no particular order.

 

1. When you live in the country, unlimited Wi-Fi is a glorious gift.

We have lived in our current house in the country almost four years now – and our internet has been fickle – and EXPENSIVE – at best.  We were working off of a Wi-Fi hotspot and paying per gig because apparently no internet service providers have blazed a trail to our neck of the woods yet.

One day on a whim, my hubby decided to stop by the nearest C-Spire store and just see what he could find out.  Lo and behold, they happened to have a special for unlimited Wi-Fi for a flat monthly rate, he promptly signed us up, and the angels all sang glory.

Our signal is still not great, but not having to count data and watch our money fly out the window each month is pretty magical.

 

2. When it comes to air travel, cheaper is not always better.

In July, I flew to Florida for an annual girls’ weekend with some dear friends.  I had debated on whether or not to go because of adoption timelines and budgets.  But I found a cheap ticket online, jumped on it, and packed my bags.

Fast forward to departure day.

I woke up at 4:00am, drove the two and a half hours to the airport, and arrived only to find that my flight had been cancelled and rescheduled – for the NEXT MORNING.  No explanation as to why it was cancelled, just an email sent out quietly an hour before we were scheduled to depart.

Seriously??

After hours of tears, phone conversations with my husband trying to figure out what to do, texting my girlfriends, looking for different flights, and finally paying the equivalent of a car down-payment for a new ticket, I finally made it to Florida, and we all had a wonderful time.  That’s when I realized that I could have driven and made it there faster – and cheaper.

The moral of the story?  Road trips are the way to go.

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3. Creativity takes courage and responsibility.

It is my responsibility to first own what most deeply moves me and then to live it out for the sake of others.  – Dan Allender

My gut-reaction when I first read this quote was, “what IS it that most deeply moves me?” as if there was something wrong with me when I couldn’t come up with an answer right away.  But the more I thought about it, I realized I DID know the answer.  Writing, my work as an advocate with Noonday, seeing others realize their worth in God’s eyes, finding hope and beauty in art, music, books, connecting with friends and family over good food and drink…all these move me at a deep level.

But I’m learning that it’s not enough just to know…I have to do.  I owe it to those around me to live fully alive, doing what God created me to do.  I’m prayerfully discovering what that looks like.

 

4. I have fallen down the rabbit hole that is Mad Men.

Y’all.

Why have I not jumped on this train sooner?!  My husband and I are on season 6 and it is so good…and so frustrating.  The clothing, the character development, the creative ad campaigns, the culture of the 60’s, and forthelove, why won’t Don Draper stop making the same mistakes over and over again?

Also, I always kinda wanted red hair because of Anne of Green Gables (didn’t we all?), but Joan has taken it to another level.  My word.

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Image source

 

5. Hattiesburg has some hidden gems.  Also, I love gelato.

My hubby surprised me with a date night to Hattiesburg a few weeks ago.  He found out about an antique market in the old downtown area that is only open once a month and decided to try it out.  After driving around for a bit, we found it located in this two-story brick warehouse.  We spent a good two hours wandering around, glasses of Moscato in hand (complimentary!), browsing the antiques, handmade items, clothing, old books…I was in heaven.  My man knows me well.

To top it all off, we stumbled upon this little pizzeria across the street for dinner, where we discovered they also had homemade gelato.  A scoop of Nutella and a scoop of peanut butter later, and I was rethinking all my previously professed love of ice cream.

Gelato, where have you been all my life?

 

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6. As a 6 on the Enneagram, my weaknesses tend to manifest as cynicism and selfishness.

I’m pretty sure that I’m a 6 on the Enneagram…aka, the Loyalist.  Sounds great, right?  It is…when you’re emotionally and spiritually healthy.  But the other side of the coin is that it can be hard for me to trust others, being critical and selfish…both traits that I’ve noticed in myself far too often lately.  Which is a red flag indicating that there’s some soul-work that needs to be done.

 

7. Truth + trust are essential for change in relationships.

I’ve been slowly reading through Shauna Niequist’s Savor devotional this year.  A few days ago I came across these words…

Truth without trust is a lot of what we see online these days, especially in Facebook-land.  People shouting and sharing their opinions and their ‘truth’ without having built any trust or relationships with the people who read their words.  I’ve been guilty of this.  My prayer has become this – that my words, both online and in person, would be balanced between building trust and sharing truth.

 

Your turn!  What have you learned this summer?

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Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which mean that Balloons of Hope will get a tiny percentage (thank you!) if you find something you must have, but I only link to things I personally love, use or read.

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When the Struggle to Extend Grace is Real

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Confession: I have had a rather uncomfortable realization lately.

Ready for it?  Here goes.

I’m somewhat of a selfish beast.

Ouch, right?  Let me be straight-up-real with you.  It smarts when you realize that you may have traded richer, fuller, and yes, messier, relationships for ones that stay comfortably on the surface.  That your desire to have others listen – REALLY listen, not just smile and nod while their eyes dart elsewhere – hasn’t always been extended by you to others.  Double ouch.

More often than not, it’s been my desire to hold tightly to my own comfort and boundaries that has squeezed the life right out of some relationships.  Relationships are living things.  And they can’t breathe when clenched tightly in the fist of selfishness.

If I’m gut-level honest, relationships have sometimes gotten in the way of what I want.  Because What I Want is a selfish little tune always playing at the back of my mind.  And that’s uncomfortable to admit.

How often have I given off a vibe that says ‘you have to have it all together for us to be friends,’ creating impossible standards for others to keep, while at the same time expecting grace for myself?  More often than I care to admit.

Because what we all really want, deep down, is grace.  We want to find that tribe of people who know us for who we truly are….and love us anyways.  Who accept us with all of our quirks and foibles and failures.  Who laugh with us when we mess up, and encourage us to get back up when we fall down.  I know that’s what I want.

And yet.

I struggle to extend that grace so freely.  My selfish little fist keeps trying to grip it tightly to myself.

So what am I to do?  Do I sink down into despair, and wallow in the realization that I’ve failed?  It’s tempting, and my default far too often.

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Or do I rise to my feet, own my mistakes, loosen my tight grip, and humbly offer grace – and myself – to others once again?

That is the million-dollar question.

Here’s what I’m painfully and awkwardly learning – at the end of the day, Jesus isn’t really concerned with my perfectly planned and executed calendar.  He’s not even concerned with my comfort and my boundaries and What I Want.  Nope.  What does catch His eye is how well I loved others.  How well I loosened my fierce grip on my comfort and What I Want and allowed myself to be broken by the brokenness of others.  How often I got up off the couch and walked into the beauty and the mess of another…and let them into mine.

I truly want to learn how to hold my time, my desires, and the grace I’ve been given loosely, allowing divine interruptions to beautifully mark my ‘perfectly’ planned day.  Because – let’s face it – there’s no such thing as a perfectly planned day anyways.

I am preaching this to myself.  I am awkwardly and desperately learning how to listen to the still, small voice of Christ that says, “Let go.  Just love Me.  Then go love them.”

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“Being certain that God is always at work around you will affect your relationships with others.”  –Experiencing God Bible Study

Here’s to learning how to let go and extend grace.

 

 

*This post may contain affiliate links.  Thanks for supporting Balloons of Hope!*

That Scrappy Little Thing Called Hope

Hope.

I keep coming back again and again to this word.  I’m not really sure why.  I felt God whisper it into my spirit a little over two years ago as my word for 2015.  It turned out to be an anchor for my soul that year, as we began the lengthy and emotional process of pursuing adoption.  I took a highlighter to every phrase or scripture or sentence that mentioned hope and guzzled the truth of it down like water.  I wrote an entire blog series on what I was learning about hope that fall.  It began to grow hands and feet and meat and bones and come to life as a powerful thing for me that year.  And only God knew how much I would need to hang on tight to hope with my clenched fists.

Lately, I haven’t always wanted to see reminders of hope though.  To be honest, it’s been easier to push hope down and close my ears to her whispers of remembrance.  She feels pesky, and I don’t want to listen.  I want to go on with the details of my life without feeling the pain of unmet desires that she often brings.

But now, a year and a half later, I still can’t seem to shake this pesky little friend, Hope.  And even though she feels irritating at times, if I’m honest with myself, I’m glad she’s stuck around.  I have reminders of her on our walls, on my phone, in conversations.  She keeps popping up everywhere.

You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.  And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning.  And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.  ~Job 11:16-18

Hope is the joyful anticipation of good.  ~from sermon notes on January 10, 2016

There’s an episode of Friends (‘how you doin’?’) where Phoebe and Monica try to ‘freeze out’ an annoying friend.  As they come up with a plan for cutting her out of their lives, it becomes apparent that Phoebe once tried to do the very same thing, unsuccessfully, to Monica.

Hope is basically Monica for me.  No matter what I’ve tried to do – ignore her reminders, stay busy, tick through life like a checklist, push all-the-feelings about adoption and the waiting process deep down inside – she just keeps clawing her way back in.  She’s scrappy like that.

Maybe you can relate.

Do you feel like you can’t keep up, can’t measure up, can’t do all the things that need to be done?  It would be so much easier to throw up your hands and give up.  Hope is that voice that comes up behind you and says, “You need to know that it won’t always be like this.”

Do you feel like you’re teetering on the edge of burn-out, running on adrenaline and your 16th cup of coffee by 11:00am?  You just can’t handle one more person putting one more thing on your plate or you’ll snap.

Is your soul bone-tired and in need of a shot of courage?  And yet even the thought of courage seems laughable right now.  Courage takes work…and you’re tired.

Are you in a season of waiting that seems unending?  You’re sick and tired of answering the question in everyone’s eyes with one more ‘not yet.’

Everything in you says the easiest thing would be to tell Hope to shove it, to move on to someone else who has the energy to give a rip right now.  And so you do.  You slam the door in her face.  But somehow, SOMEHOW, that scrappy little voice of Hope claws her way back in, comes up behind you and says, “You need to know that it won’t always be like this.”

Sometimes, that’s all Hope is…the tiniest glimmer. That little spark that says, ‘It won’t always be like this. This too shall pass.’

Against all odds. Against all discouragement. Against all the endless waiting and sameness of whatever season you find yourself in.  THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

Because hope…she’s a scrappy little thing.  She’ll claw her way back in even when we try to cut her out so we can wallow in our sorry.  Been there, done that.

One of the definitions of ‘scrappy’ is ‘inclined to fight.’  It’s humorous, really.  Because if that’s true, and hope really is scrappy, then that means that she’s inclined to fight.  Sometimes it feels like she’s fighting against you…and all you want is for her to go. away. already.

But really, hope is inclined to fight for us.  She’ll fight through the discouragement, the exhaustion, the weariness, the unending sameness to bring courage to our hearts and remind us that it won’t always be this way.  That Christ is for us.  That we are not forgotten, but we are wildly loved.

And the truth is that hope that’s built on Christ, built on the Truth…well, she’s more than scrappy.  She’s downright victorious.

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for supporting Balloons of Hope!*

 

Weekend Reads – Episode 17

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It’s Friday y’all, and according to the calendar, it’s the first official Friday of the summer.  Although I don’t know about you, but here in Mississippi it’s already been summer (read: 80+ degrees and ThankGodforAC) since the beginning of May.  Calendar-shmalendar.  But in the spirit of things, I hope this weekend finds you sipping lemonade, dipping your toes in the water, eating something grilled, and all manner of summery fun!  Here are a few good reads along the way.

1 Real Cure for Burnout by Ann Voskamp

“All except One will assess your performance.  Only One will accept you before your performance.  Pillage and loot the world for all it’s worth, but only in Jesus is there 100% acceptance before even 1% performance.”

Get Off Your Porch by (in)courage

“I’ve always felt that I deserved people to move toward me to create community, especially when I’m the new girl in town.  The problem is that we’ve moved a lot and I’m almost always the ‘new girl.’  Some of us need to get off of our porch and stop expecting people to come to us.”

Ouch, yeah, I needed to hear that.

Why We Need to Start Calling Each Other Names – For Real by Ann Voskamp

“With the richness of the party draped still over my shoulders, I thought once again about how one of the great tragedies of our Western culture is that we have a nasty habit of waiting until we’re standing at someone’s funeral to speak the very truth about them that we saw all along, the truth that most made them who they are and the truth that, perhaps, they most needed to know if they were ever going to step into the person they were created to be.”

The Best Question to Ask When Things Are Going Hard by Katie Ganshert

“We may never know why something happens – why this circumstance, why this outcome, why this dratted, discouraging setback.  Those aren’t answers easily found.  But whoWho is all around.”

THIS.

Confessions of a Contributor by Alia Joy for (in)courage

“Sometimes we think to make room for someone else in our circles we have to reach out.  But really, more often, we just need to step back.  Isn’t that always how the kingdom gets things done?  Backwards and upside down.  Because when we all step back, the circle widens.  The gaps become apparent and the silence in between begs for us to hear each other.”

Happy First-Weekend-of-Summer!

 

Weekend Reads – Episode 16

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Summertime is almost here, can you smell it?  Well, let’s be honest, here in Mississippi there’s no ‘almost’ about it.  Thank you God for the blessing of air conditioning.  Here are a few good reads for your summery, holiday weekend.

Rename the Days by Trista Payne

“We are story in process, telling of all His purposes.  We matter because Jesus gave everything for us and His story is repeated through every tiny life – mine and yours and all those estranged from the life of God.”

 From Good to Grace by Martha Kimball

“Sometimes we have to lose everything we’re clinging to in order to see and know and experience how held we are.”

The 19 Best Children’s Book Quotes

This one is just plain fun…there were definitely more than a few of my childhood (and still!) favorites here, including this one:

“And so for a time it looked as if all the adventures were coming to an end; but that was not to be…

How to Survive in a World of Loud Critics and Judgers – Including the Repetitive One in Your Mind by Ann Voskamp

This line – “Jesus unsettles the comfortable and He comforts the unsettled.”

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Happy Memorial Day, friends!  May there be barbeque and swimming and cold drinks and lawn chairs and friends and family in abundance.