Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On Belonging

I was talking to an out-of-town friend recently about whether she's enjoying life where she lives. She said it's been hard to feel like she fits in, that she yearns for community.

It got me thinking. Some things never change with us girls. I've determined that seventh grade lives on in all of us to one degree or another. Sure, we've moved beyond zippered Guess jeans and permed side-ponytails, but the issues are basically the same.

I've also determined that there's a difference between
fitting in and belonging.

Fitting in connotes a blending in, a certain amount of conformity, being like those around you. Belonging is quite different. We belong to our families, for example, but we can be wildly different from our siblings or parents. We belong to all sorts of groups and sub-communities but it doesn't mean we're like everyone else there.
The truth is: We may not fit in where we belong.

And if given a choice between fitting in and belonging, I'll choose the latter.

But it hasn't always been that way...

Often wondering if I was something of a misfit, I've struggled to fit in. Sure, I could make friends and navigate social waters easily enough but on the inside, I felt misunderstood, different.

In the past I've overemphasized certain commonalities with others that are actually secondary at best. And when I couldn't find the common, I strived to be someone I wasn't and it always felt like work.

At 37, I'm learning a lot about how God made me, thanks to some divinely-appointed guidance along the way. I may never fit in but I don't feel weird or sad about it; I've made peace with different.

Another friend who recently moved is trying to make peace with location and I wonder how many of us are in that boat with her. For 8 years I've lived in this area. I'm sort of an urban girl at heart, yet I can see cows from my backyard and I drive by a few Confederate flags on my way to Wal-Mart.

Also? I'm not a football fan. At this point, 90% of my local readers will disown me. That's because the adjacent college town is known far and wide for football. The world stops spinning once the tailgates fold down in the fall. So you see, I've struggled to fit in here.

Oh the fretting and negotiating that's taken place between this fussy girl and her patient God. Yet He has been nothing but loving toward my picky self. He has tenderly shown me that this is where I belong. He brought us here.

Slowly, I'm learning to trust His sovereignty. And honestly, I would be sad to leave now. God has gifted me with a kaleidoscope of people over the past 8 years. I would have seriously missed out if I'd focused solely on the fitting in part.

Maybe you feel the same way, trying to make peace with where you've been placed or feeling like a misfit. And if you do, I hereby give you permission to let go.

Quit striving to fit in and embrace the freedom to belong...

Somebody may need just the sort of different you'll bring to the table.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Do You See What I See?

Cupcake and I cozied up to the kitchen table after his nap yesterday. He sniffed out the chocolate I'd already been munching on while he slept and I felt guilty for not sharing. I knew a post-nap treat would delight him to no end.

As we chatted and nibbled on frosted brownies, he waved confidently and intentionally to someone outside. I stared through the big bay window but saw no one.

Who are you waving at? I asked

The trees, he replied.

I stared again through the window and beheld what I hadn't noticed five seconds prior: waving trees.

Sure enough, a warm southern breeze was rippling through the air and the tall pines and oaks that line the back of our property were bending and bowing and well, waving.

I just didn't have the capacity to see it at first.

I've said it before but it bears repeating: the eyes have it.


Monday, July 19, 2010


I've had A Holy Experience delivered to my inbox for quite some time now. Something about Ann's writing redirects my often muddled perspective back to the sacred ordinary. And every post is poetry, pure and simple. She has a gift. I'm so thankful she shares it with the rest of us.

Each Monday she makes a gratitude list. Today, on a random Monday, I have decided to join in. I've always been prone to dwell on the have not rather than the have. Practicing gratitude doesn't come naturally...but when it does come, perspective shifts. I am kinder, more content, more apt to see the beauty in the everyday and the blessings just waiting to be gathered up.

So here it goes...

1. breezy, low-humidity July day, a welcome respite for us southern folk

2. neighbors

3. room enough for us all in our cozy home

4. sweet tea in the afternoon

5. hot pink, which {hopefully temporarily} boldly streaks my daughter's hair today

6. a sweaty morning run with my friend and running partner, followed by Starbucks

7. The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. The message will change you.

8. My husband's precious grandfather who went to be with Jesus Friday night. We'll never know how many prayers he offered up on our behalf.

9. a husband who continues to love me even though I am prone to muttering and moodiness

10. the backyard "golf course" where I'm watching the boy play as I type these words

11. my camera and lens and the generous one who gifted both

12. local peaches and blueberries

13. the Cross

Ann said it perfectly today:

If you've made it to the Cross -- then no matter what's up ahead, the hardest part of life, it's falling there back behind you... Whatever today holds --- Jesus came. We're living in the reign of Grace!

I can just see you now.

Taking a deep breath... and smiling the whole long day.

What are you grateful for? Go on, make a list in your head or jot it on a post-it for your fridge. A smile is sure to follow.

holy experience

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Michigan Love

We just returned from Michigan, birthplace of my beloved husband. Over the years it has become a beloved place for the children and me as well, southern-born though we are. For us, Michigan represents rest and beauty and family.

It also represents junk food hedonism. I consume my year's quota of potato chips and soda in one week. Sadly, the junk food detox has begun and I have nursed a headache for 72 hours. I could silence the pounding with more Dr. Pepper and a full-size bag of Doritos but then I wouldn't have next year's hedonism to anticipate.

Before we left, I asked Blondie what she was most looking forward to. She couldn't name just one thing. She said, staying up late with cousins and getting a can of soda out of the cooler on the beach when it's hot and catching turtles...

As her list continued, I realized that for all of us, Michigan vacation is really just a bunch of little things that all add up to one big anticipated summer tradition of fun and memories with those we love.

Somehow a tiny lake and hundred-year-old family homestead pull all of us in like a magnet from Michigan, Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis, South Carolina, and California. For a week we catch up on the past year and marvel at how one another's kids have grown up in such a short time.

Cousin Phil puts on the biggest family fireworks display you've ever seen while the kids wear glow necklaces and eat s'mores and become drowsy by the glow of the campfire and the eventual ebb of the sugar high.

Every year we return to our own house and I am sad for the better part of a week, torn between two locales that both feel like home.

There are certain places that settle firm into your heart and take up residence when you're not aware...soul places. If the Maker has truly set eternity in our hearts, soul places surely must be temporal spots here on earth that point us to a glorious final destination.

The Michigan homestead is a soul place for me.

My hope is that Heaven has a dock and a spring-fed blue lake and most importantly, the presence of those I love so dearly.

Calorie-free potato chips wouldn't hurt either.


More photos
{because I took 300 and
simply must share a few}:

Our family. Hard to believe I've been part of this gang for nearly 15 years...

Brownie goes kayaking...

And you all know this pictorial buffet would not be complete without the Cupcake. He fell fast in love with Orange Crush, evidenced by the smeared, syrupy neon stain around his mouth.

If you look closely you can still see it. I nearly scrubbed his lips off trying get him clean for pictures.

Until next year...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Productive Procrastination

I have a strange habit of starting unnecessary projects right before a trip.

Something about the loathsome task of packing creates an uncontrollable urge to clean out closets or wax my upper lip. Thirty-six hours before vacation, I feel strangely justified in completing projects I could have done months ago.

This irrational and familiar pre-trip pattern annoys my husband to no end as he patiently asks:

Are you packing or organizing?

What does the label maker have to do with our trip?

Why are you painting the trim?

The simple answer is, I don't know. Also? Why am I most productive when it's most inconvenient? Why do the urges never visit first thing on a Monday morning of any given week?

Maybe the solution is to stay in a perpetual state of travel until my house is the way I want it. Travel. Unpack. Get ready for another trip. Clean out the garage the night before. Repeat.

If I could bottle productive procrastination, I would be rich.

Does anyone else have this bizarre disorder?


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